Lessons Learned from the Three Gorges Dam
Activity 3

Opposition Letter

Local Residents to be Resettled


To: World Commission on Dams

From: Town of Wanzian

We are a group of local leaders and farmers from the town of Wanzian which presently has 140,000 living along the Yangtze, but we believe we speak for the people of the Three Gorges region. We have not felt we could say publicly how widespread and strong the grassroots opposition to the building of the dam has been. We urge the commission to listen to our compelling reasons for opposition to the dam:


The only replacement lands available in the region are too steep, too elevated, and too poor to farm. The dam builders know that the most fertile land in the valley would be lost to the reservoir. We fear we will not receive compensation or replacement land. Another concern is that if we cannot be resettled within the Three Gorges region, the Chinese government could deport us to distant areas now predominately populated by minority groups.

Entire towns and cities (such as Wushan at the confluence of the Yangtze and Daning River) will be submerged under the waters of the reservoir. The Yangtze River Water Resources Commission will relocate 1.2 million people, provide new farmland for 300,000 farmers. These forced evictions will be the largest forced resettlement in history. Unrest is likely to grow. The resettlement for Three Gorges Dam may become an explosive social problem, and the dam region will become a hotbed of sustained upheaval. Historically, many people ousted from their homes by dams projects elsewhere still live in abject poverty. Relocation will affect traditions, lifestyles and cultures.

As far back as September 2000, news reports indicated that evicted residents' anger at corrupt officials was erupting into demonstrations and violence. In one case, a thousand peasants marched on government offices and became violent when local leaders refused to meet with them. Troops were called out to restore order. For nearly a decade, villagers have signed dozens of petitions asking state officials to investigate corruption and intimidation by resettlement officials.

Consultation of the Local Population

Even though up to two million people will be totally displaced by this dam, we have not been listened to by the Chinese government. The feasibility study states as a factor to be "considered" in resettlement: "It is especially important for the success of the Three Gorges Project resettlement program that not only the population to be resettled but also the host population are convinced that they will benefit from the Project."

We have not had any legitimate input to the project planning and decision making, much less have we been "convinced" of the benefits. In fact, we have not been consulted at all.

We have heard that the Chinese government plans to relocate our people on good farmland and give us better jobs and retraining; however, we feel our self-sufficiency might be destroyed if this is done. We need to keep control of this area and do not want to be dependent on the government for our support.

Archaeological losses

The region has been inhabited since Palaeolithic and has accumulated a wealth of archaeological sites remain. Although some, such as Zhang Fei Temple at Yungang, will be relocated, 800 sites of cultural relics will be destroyed. No amount of compensation could ever repay the loss of our antiquities.


14,500 hectares of agricultural land will be inundated. Compensation will be needed for us. Increased output will be required from other land, but farming on higher ground may have less fertility and thinner soils. There will also be loss of fertile sediment previously deposited on floodplain downstream during annual floods. Farming near estuary will be affected by lower flows and intrusion of salt water around Shanghai.


Consequences include change of habitats, a general transformation from rapid to slow moving waters and reduction in sediment, and soils being deprived replenishment of nutrients from sediments. Commercial fisheries will be affected (black, silver, grass and variegated carp breed) and fish are often killed in electric turbines of dams.

We strongly urge this Review Commission on Dams to consider the cultural aspects of this dam project an equal or even greater weight than the economic aspects. We are convinced that the Three Gorges Dam will only do harm to the people living in the area.

Thank you.