The Chinese government takes the resettlement complexities of the Three Gorges project seriously and is making great efforts to solve them, said a senior official in a recent interview with China Daily.
Qi Lin, director of the Resettlement Bureau under the State Council Three Gorges Construction Committee, made the remarks during an inspection tour in Wanxian District, of Chongqing.
Qi pledged that money for public works projects would be wisely spent and that local officials were not siphoning off resettlement funds.
The dam project is the world's largest, and its reservoir will eventually submerge 632 square kilometers of land.
This translates into a resettlement scheme involving 1.2 million people upon the project's completion in 2009. Some 263,400 were resettled by the end of September this year.
The project has been dogged with controversy because of its environmental and social impact. A chief concern has been that resettlement officials may try to enrich themselves at the country's expense.
Qi said China has used a stringent supervision system to avoid funds earmarked for resettlement, estimated at 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion), from being diverted to other things.
Latest audit reports estimate that 31 million yuan (US$3.73 million), or 0.14 percent, of the migration money spent during the past seven years was illegally used by 315 officials, Qi said.
"Officials who have creamed off state cash for themselves have been sternly dealt with and 95 percent of the embezzled money has already been retrieved," Qi said.
Moving two cities, 114 towns and 1,711 villages is almost as breathtaking a task as building the 185-meter colossus.
"It is a project for the national good. Uprooted people have sacrificed their 'small families' for the sake of the 'big family'," Qi said.
"For this reason, any activities that infringe upon relocating people's interests will be punished."
Gao Yongmiao, the former Party Secretary of Zigui, Chongqing, was sacked last year for building the new town twice as big as was originally planned - a mistake that pushed up overall costs and wasted public funds.
Qi called for closer media monitoring to avoid possible human errors as the high-profile project continued.
He also criticized some media's false reports that have misled the public and twisted the facts.
"I promise that the resettlement funds are being supervised more strictly than most other public funds in China," Qi said.
(China Daily 12/30/2000)