Mar. 23, 2023

River Decade Project 2014 (5) The White Jinsha River

 Our next destination was Baihetan, or “White Crane Beach,” another community along the Jinsha River.  We woke up and ate a big breakfast with party secretary Zheng.  He admitted that the country party committee was indeed responsible for relocating all displaced farmers, but would not comment as to the progress of this work.  However, he said with confidence that the new hydropower station will bring great changes to the area.


-Life on the Riverside

-An old house by the river

We journeyed to the nearby dam reservoir, where the process of farmer relocation was currently active.  Because of problems with compensation, contradictions and conflicts are becoming more severe. 

From there we headed east, in the direction of Qiaojia county, where the dry heat is impossible to run from.   Illegal mining operations take place not too far from river, where operators brazenly dig up limonite with little fear of repercussion. 


Along the bank of the river, much of the land is fertile and the villages are thriving, but within 5-6 years it will all be submerged under dam reservoirs.  How can you adequately compensate farmers for a loss as great as this?




-Interviewing locals who’ve been displaced by dam construction

Deputy Mayor Zhang told us that the government would be able to place a large number of farmers in aquaculture settlements, and that if they weren’t interested in aquaculture, they can transfer them to an area which grows fruit during all 4 seasons. 

Our “River Decade Project” has already been going on for nine years.  The construction of the dams has forced so many people away from their ancestral homes, and their hope for a new life has been replaced by a growing feeling of despair.  All we can do is hope that the local government will protect the farmers as they promised. 

When we asked Zhang whether or not he’d be adapting the same policies as the Xiluodu hydropower station did, he replied that it was government policy to advocate on behalf of these power stations, but that relocating migrant farmers need not necessarily be a painful business.  It would be better to relocate them in order to both benefit the farmers and maximize gains from the power stations.

GEV: “What specific policies do you think would be most beneficial?”


Zhang: “We are constantly exploring for the best method to approach this problem.  We’re hoping to utilize what we learned from the Xiangjiaba dam incident.”  


We switched the focus of the interview to the pollution status of the Jinsha River.  Last year, one of our colleagues Qin Bin came by the area and photographed the Jinsha River’s tributaries.

After last year’s media exposure involving the area’s safety inspector, many nearby mineral processing companies were charged with environmental pollution.  The district government stated that the any mineral processing enterprise must contrast a tailings dam by July 30th, 2014.  Enterprises without substantial progress will be permanently shut down.

Despite the claims that the river had been cleaned after a year of treatment, the fact was heavy metal pollution still exceeded the maximum that was permitted. 

GEV: “If the river has so much pollution, do you think the fish can survive in the future?” 


Zhang: “With good government management, yes.”


-A tributary river after being polluted


-A nearby mine



In a nearby county, there are three small streams which flow on the side of a mountain.  This is actually a wastewater drainage outlet, which is actually located in the Xiluodu reservoir’s tail.  Geographical experts claim that the debris will not allow the water to properly flow, and the heavy metal pollution will be pushed underwater.   



-The wastewater drainage outlet in question



-This photo was taken on April 12th, 2014.  The slag was dumped along the river channel slope.



-Cement colored water gushing from an outlet



-This village’s source of irrigation water has been polluted by a nearby copper processing plant



-Taking a sample of the water

Two months after we took these photos, we got word that our interviews really stirred up some controversy.  The company in question was fined 500,000 RMB, and the vice president of production was fired. 



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