Premier Zhu Rongji Wednesday called for strengthened measures to relocate residents of the Three Gorges area to affluent coastal regions as the construction of the world's largest hydropower project is about to enter a key stage.
Calling the resettlement a make-or-break point for the dam project, Zhu said access to employment should be widened and services improved in the coastal regions to facilitate the migrants' well-being.
"More policies need to be formulated to encourage immigration (to coastal regions) by increasing business opportunities and securing stable income to rid them (immigrants) of long-term financial concerns,'' said Zhu.
The premier was addressing the 11th meeting in Beijing Wednesday of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee under the State Council, the project's top authority.
The meeting saw an exchange of views on the construction process and strategies between Zhu, who is head of the committee, and his subordinates, including Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo and senior engineers such as Qian Zhengying and Zhang Guangdou.
They highlighted the human relocation, quality supervision and environmental protection as key priorities that need to be addressed.
Zhu said the relocation strategy can contribute to the upgrading of the ecological system in the dam area, while providing a fresh workforce for the industrial coastal areas.
There has been growing concern that resettling residents to places close to the dam area would be detrimental to the environment as the overall area is too small to accommodate everyone, which would result in the forests being exploited to build new homes while the extra farming would lead to renewed soil erosion.
By the end of September, more than 640,000 residents had been resettled and started new lives in such places as Southwest China's Chongqing and East China's Shanghai, according to the project committee.
Construction on the world's largest hydropower project, located near Yichang in Central China's Hubei Province, began in 1993 and is expected to finish in 2009. The project consists of a 1,983-metre-long and 185-metre-high dam and 26 generating units with a combined capacity of 18.2 million kilowatts.
Zhu urged the constructors to spare no efforts to guarantee the quality of the project, with stricter supervision of the construction process.
"Quality is the lifeline of the Three Gorges Dam project and no dereliction or slackness can be excused,'' said Zhu.
Construction of the dam project is entering a key stage as damming of the canal built to facilitate the passing of Yangtze River water is expected early next month.
The move is essential to fulfill the first-phase water storage of the project, make the permanent ship-lock operational and secure the first group of generating units in 2003.
Zhu said stepped-up efforts should be made to prepare for the water storage, which is only eight months away. He mentioned such specific measures as the cleaning of the reservoir bed and the clearing of any blockages and solid waste.
Zhu also highlighted the need to protect the environment of the dam area by turning farmland back into forests, curbing soil erosion and strengthening the treatment of sewage and other rubbish.
Equally important is the preservation of cultural relics around the dam areas, he added.
(China Daily October 31, 2002)