The Three Gorges Dam: Part III, The Human Cost

The Yangtze river valley is one of the richest cultural sites in China. Archaeologists were not supported in the area until 2000, at which point they could only rescue about 10% of the artifacts now under water. The area contains extensive late-Neolithic remains from the Daxi culture (ca. 5000-3200BC) and the Chujialing culture (3200-2300BC), but the most promising finds are from the Ba culture, an obscure group that archaeologists are discovering formed the foundations for far more of China's cultural heritage than previously thought. They appear to be 1,000 years older than was believed and to have had more sophisticated art than the Yellow River societies of the same period.
    828 Artifacts will be lost, including:
  • Vast Tang Dynasty (618-907) ruins at Mingyueba, which cover 150,000 square meters and contain at least 20 stone buildings, 20 tombs, and Buddhist sculptures that constitute the best preserved Tang Dynasty site in the region.
  • The Da Zu Stone Sculptures, created during the Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279) when a Bhuddist monk and his followers spent 70 years engraving Buddhist figures into the rock slopes and cave, and include a 31-meter-long Sakyamuni sleeping on his side.
  • Feng Du, a "Ghost City" representing both heaven and hell.
  • The Shibaozhai, an eleven-story Stone Treasure Storehouse, whose sloping tile roof, spiral staircase and delicate classical entrance have long been considered an architectural miracle.
  • The Qu Yuan Shrine in the Wu Gorge, where people pay their highest respects to the earliest poet-in-exile in Chinese history.
  • The White Crane Ridge and the Dragon Bone Rock, which have marked the water-level for 1200 years and contain vital information about the changes in climate, navigation and water management. On them are carved the calligraphy of more the 300 of the most famous writers, poets, and artists in Chinese history.
  • 1800 year old walkways along the cliffs of the Daning River, constructed by digging holes into solid rock seven hundred meters above the water, inserting beams, and paving the road with planks of wood.
The cultural elite won't be alone in their suffering. Approximately 2 million people will have to relocate to accommodate the new reservoir. Already hundreds of thousands have been moved, but serious problems are starting to arise. Government Officials admit that there is insufficient land for those needing to relocate, and many are returning to their homes in protest. In August of 2002, nearly 900 people returned to the town of Guonho to live in tents and shacks for lack of available jobs at the site of relocation. Dr. John Byrne says, "one of the tragedies of this [project], if just from a regional standpoint, is that the land that is going to be flooded is some of the most fertile in China. The land to where the population is to be relocated is much less fertile." The compensation due to those who resettle is well below market value, to the point that in combination with the poor resettlement options, foreign nations are calling the resettlement a violation of human rights. Those going through the government-sponsored resettlement program are receiving as little as one third what those who organize their own resettlement are receiving.
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This page contains a single entry by published on July 26, 2003 10:27 PM.

The Three Gorges Dam: Part II, Why China Needs the World's Largest Dam was the previous entry in this blog.

The Three Gorges Dam: Part IV, Will It Work? is the next entry in this blog.

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