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Three Gorges Dam migration ends, transition ongoing

2013-01-30 16:11 Xinhua     Web Editor: Gu Liping comment

The Chongqing municipal government has removed a report on migration efforts related to the Three Gorges Dam from the ongoing legislative session's review process, marking the end of the nation's largest migration project.

Huang Qifan, mayor of Chongqing, said at the fourth Chongqing municipal People's Congress that the removal indicates that the government has reprioritized the migration efforts.

"Migration efforts involving millions of people have nearly been completed. Poverty, unemployment and environmental hazards are now at the top of the agenda," Huang said.

Around 1.1 million people have been relocated since 1993 to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project.

The State Council released regulations pertaining to the migration in 1993, stressing that migrants should be treated appropriately.

A work report on the migration efforts was sent to Chongqing's annual legislative meeting for 17 successive years, according to Wang Xiangang, deputy of the Chongqing People's Congress and chief of the Chongqing Migration Bureau.

Wang said the migration efforts have been successful, with many resettled migrants seeing their living conditions improve after being relocated.

But criticism has still surfaced, as pollution and geological threats resulting from rising waters have strained brittle slopes and triggered landslides, threatening residents' lives and security.

Wang said the government underestimated the potential damage brought about by rapid urbanization, erosion and household pollutants that have ended up in the dam's reservoir.

"The economy of the populous reservoir area, which already had poor ecology before the dam was built in 1994, depends on agriculture and industry," says Pu Yongjian, a professor at the economics and management department of Chongqing University.

"Manufacturers have been moved out of the area over environmental concerns, forcing the area's economic development to start almost from scratch," Pu said.

To protect the environment, the government has promised to find a lasting solution for geological hazards around the dam and deal with a backlog of social problems that have plagued migrants.

"Problems left over from migration and resettlement must be dealt with in detail. Migrants' hardships in work and life must be solved," Wang said.

The government has closed more than 1,600 factories while moving 190,000 people elsewhere. So far, 52.9 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars) has been earmarked to subsidize migration efforts.

"Geological hazards have been brought under control and no major losses of life or injuries have been caused by any major geological disasters in the Three Gorges Dam area," Wang said.

"Although the relocation is almost at an end, there is still a long way to go. Preserving the local ecology and giving migrants a better life is easier said than done," Pu said.

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