Mar. 23, 2023
River Decade Project 2014 (2) The Three Gorges Company’s creation: The Jinsha Dams

 The Three Gorges Company’s creation: The Jinsha Dams

-The dams along the Jinsha River


Our first stop was the Xiangjiaba dam, the first completed hydroelectric power station on the upstream portion of the Jinsha River.  Back in 2012 when we tried visiting the station, armed guards blocked the road and forbade us from entering.  Today, the top of the nearby mountain has an observation deck.  Locals are hopeful that dam tourism can stimulate economic growth.

However, many of the local people who were forced to move are having problems of their own.  Many have been forced to move, with little in the way of compensation (about $26 a month), and no way to make a living.

One of the locals had this to say: “The only thing we’re hoping for is that the government offers more aid.  Some of the original land they took isn’t flooded, we can still use that land.  We still have the nearby mountain to work with.  But as it stands now we have nothing, no land, nothing at all. 

“We had over a 1000 people go up to a Three Gorges Dam company officer and we asked them, ‘Do you think $26 dollars is enough money to live?  What could we possibly buy that could feed us?’  And it looks like this is their long term plan for us.                                                                                        

“I remember the men from the public security bureau started arresting people who were arguing with the company.  They accused us of rioting, but we told them ‘we’re not rioting, we’re trying to find a reasonable solution.  We just want our lives back.’”



-An ex-farmer’s new life: selling snacks to tourists


-A father and child thinking about where to get food


-An ex-farmer with his home now under the water, living off $26 a month


While crossing Ping Shan country our leader, Yang Yongchen, told the car to stop so we could walk.  “Next year when we come,” she said, “this’ll all be submerged underwater.  Let’s enjoy a stroll across it while we can."

-The original homes of the farmers


Back in 2012 and 2013, we spoke to the Minister of propaganda for Suijiang county, who told us that their although their work has both “black and white” aspects, and that they work hard, 7 days a week, without paying heed to other’s criticism.


-2012, Minister of Propaganda eating breakfast


When we returned in 2014, the minister told us that she had been communicating with the Three Gorges Dam Company over the past 2 years, trying to reach a more reasonable method of compensation, but hasn’t received a response.

Back in 2012, the minister’s most often repeated words were: “the construction of the dam will improve the people’s livelihoods by providing jobs in 2 years.”  Now her most often repeated words are: “$26 dollars isn’t enough.  At the moment, the people have lost a lot more than they’ve gained.  This is the biggest problem facing the country government today.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

We commented: “Aren’t the problems of today being caused by dam construction?”


-The new homes along the shore, the old homes under the river


A reporter for ‘The People’s Daily’ asked the minister why the new housing was taking so long to construct.

The minister responded: “It’s a long story.”  She assured us that the current policy was not a permanent solution, but the problem was that the Three Gorges Dam Company hadn’t finished approval for most of the housing, which could take awhile to process.

Meanwhile, the few homes that’ve been built have been shoddily made.  Many of the keys don’t even fit the locks of the house they were made for. 

Minister Wen also said, “Finishing the power plant will bring in opportunities for the people in the area, which will fuel development and help solve the problems of today, and in good time, bring wealth to the local Suijiang people.”

However, the profits seem to be going to party members rather than the people.

 The country government now has the obligation to help the people adjust to subsidies.  But the people were doing just fine in the past, back when they had their own homes and could grow their own home. 


-“Don’t blame the dam”


When the people started blaming the party, the minister responded: “Objectively speaking our cadres aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities.  However, many people claim that because government workers don’t come and see the damage they cause, they don’t bother helping the people.


“The reality is that they aren’t coming because they know they haven’t fixed the problem yet.  There’s no point in having our cadres coming to visit the people.  This is a market problem, and the government can’t fix a market problem, only the invisible hand can.” 


-The newly constructed city government building


The leader of the propaganda department told us his plan with great confidence: “This year we’re going to have a breakthrough in tourism,” he exclaimed.  “We’re hosting a bicycle racing festival, a dragon boat fishing festival, and a food festival.  We’re hoping to lure a businessman to come invest in our city to help create infrastructure and new jobs.  This is our job.”

“Do you think anyone is going to travel to this new city?” we asked as we looked down into the river, the ancient home of the Suijiang people, all that history and culture now submerged, now replaced by superficial festivals and hot dog stands.   

When we came to the Jinsha river, there was a middle aged man wearing headphones sitting on a cement block.  He probably thought we were simply photographers, and he probably wondered to himself what attracted these eastern city people to come all the way out here.  I remember him sitting there for hours, looking over the river while we took photos, never even bothering to turn his head even as we left. 



-An expressionless middle aged man


Our next stop was the Xiluodu dam, one of the world’s biggest dams, located in Leibo County, along the border of the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.  The area had been hit by a 4.5 magnitude earthquake, and we were curious to see the damage done and the villagers’ responses. 


-The Xiluodu Dam