Another 4 million people would be relocated in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality not because of the Three Gorges Dam but due to labor demands in the city, said an official in charge of the dam construction on Tuesday.
Wang Xiaofeng, director of the office of the Three Gorges Project Committee of the State Council, told a press conference here about 4 million people would be moved from rural to urban areas in Chongqing in support of "local industrial restructuring and labor transformation".
It is not the first time China has denied any relation between the vast relocation and the Three Gorges Project.
A Chongqing government spokesman earlier this month denied media reports that another four million people would be relocated because of environmental problems caused by the Three Gorges project.
Wen Tianping, the spokesman, stressed that the plan to encourage millions to leave their homes was part of a wider urbanization drive and was not a forced relocation.
"The municipality aims to attract three to four million people from rural to urban areas by 2020 to narrow the urban-rural wealth gap," Wen said.
According to Wang, by September 2007 China had relocated 1.22 million people for the Three Gorges Project, built 45.83 million square meters of housing and moved more than 1,570 industrial enterprises.
"China has a particular relocation issue when it comes to gigantic hydropower projects, since it is the most populous country in the world. The 20-billion-dollar Itaipu Hydropower Plant on the border between Brazil and Paraguay only needed to relocate all together 90,000 people in the two countries," Wang said.
"The Chinese government has shown great concern for the migrants and hopes to bring them a stable and affluent life in the future," Wang said.
So far, the State Council has approved the allocation of 52.9 billion yuan (7.15 billion U.S. dollars) to subsidize people moving out of the reservoir area, he said.
"We also encouraged other provinces and cities to help the development of their resettlement area and the support funds from them had reached 34.1 billion yuan (4.6 billion U.S. dollars) by the end of last year," he said.
All the money has been used directly on migrants, including relocation compensations, an annual allowance of 600 yuan for each migrant from rural areas and investment in roads, schools, hospitals and other constructions around their new homes, he said.
He said that the 289 million yuan (39 million U.S. dollars) found to have been improperly used in previous audits did not end up in individual pockets.
"The money was used for the right purposes, but just beyond the budgets. We have corrected the wrong spending," he said.
In addition to fund support, the Chinese government has enacted a special relocation regulation to protect the migrants' legal interests, ordered each migrant to be settled with a new job or land and offered them training to help them adapt to new jobs more easily.
"Regarding individuals who refuse to move, local governments should try to find out the reasons first. If they are concerned about the environment of their new dwelling place and their employment, the governments shall make improvements to dispel their worries," Wang said.
"Most people moved after they were convinced by the government's attentive arrangements and made clear about the state policy. Only very few individuals were unwilling to move and local governments handled them appropriately according to the law," he added.
China will have relocated nearly 1.4 million people by the conclusion of the relocation process by summer next year, according to an official with Wang's office.
(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2007)