Complaints leak out of China's water diversion project resettlement scheme

13:24, June 01, 2010      

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Moving water from the Yangtze River across half of China to its parched north is a massive technical undertaking -- but authorities are finding a greater challenge in resettling the people whose homes are in the path of the project.

The water will be diverted via three routes: eastern, middle and western. The middle route alone involves relocating about 330,000 people in central China's Hubei and Henan provinces.

Hubei announced a successful trial relocation of 12,000 migrants May 24. The trial took nine months.

But with plans to relocate 31,293 people by Aug. 31, signs of discontent are already leaking through the cracks of a massive social program to relocate them.

To demonstrate the problems they face, Hubei relocation authorities Monday outlined their policies to help migrants, including:

-- A grant of 0.1 hectare (1.6 mu) of land per person compared with the provincial average of 0.05 hectare.

-- An annual subsidy of 600 yuan (87.84 U.S. dollars) per household for 20 years.

-- Free vocational training, favorable employment policies and a pension scheme.

-- Compensation for their fixed assets above-market rates.

-- A free biogas pit to convert human and livestock waste into methane gas for each household.


However, much of the compensation is not as valuable as it appears, say some migrants.

Relocated migrant Zhang Yonglong is resigned to his fate, but not happy about it. "We have to make sacrifices for the greater good," he admitted.

Zhang, who is waiting for his new home to be built, said he received more than 124,000 yuan (18,155 U.S. dollars) for his 1.4-hectare orange grove and more than 90,000 yuan for his old building back in his hometown Jiangju village, Danjiangkou City.

Zhang's 178-square-meter new home in Gucheng County sits in the center of the county, an hour's drive from his hometown near Danjiangkou Reservoir.

The cost of Zhang's house was about 630 yuan per square meter, but it was resold to Zhang at around 520 yuan a meter with a government subsidy, said a Gucheng government spokesman.

In the old town, Zhang said, his orange grove earned him more than 50,000 yuan a year, and he could make a living from fishing, growing traditional medicine herbs and raising livestock.

Now he had 0.1 hectare of flat land that he had no clue how to plow. Even if he did, it would earn far less than his orange grove. Local farmers say a plot of its size would normally bring 3,600 yuan a year, 5,000 at most.

"Though the compensation package, which is worth more than 240,000 yuan, is fairly handsome, my income from the orange grove was stable and lasted for generations," Zhang said.

The oranges produced near the Danjiangkou Reservoir were a prized export to Japan, Korea and Russia.

It took time for the migrants, who mostly lived on the mountains, to get accustomed to life and work in their new homes. The government was working hard to help them get familiar with new skills and the environment, said Xu Tengfang, the provincial relocation official.

Some officials and local residents say the migrants are exaggerating their incomes to bargain for more favorable polices.

"It's human nature to think of what's lost as the most precious. It's also human nature to speak for one's own benefit," said Li Guangxian, a relocation official in Xiangfan, Hubei's second largest city.
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