Dam builder must do its part

By Tong Dahuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 2, 2011
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At an executive meeting of the State Council on May 18, China's key policymakers discussed the Three Gorges Follow-up Plan, a wide-reaching group of policies intended to address the adverse effects of the Three Gorges Dam project.

The new policies aim to resolve a wide range of post-dam consequences, including geological changes, environmental pollution, social welfare concerns, changes to irrigation and the water supply, and damage to the region's shipping industry.

Policymakers have deemed the plan essential to national social, economic and political stability, and have urged all localities to work together to restore diverse ecosystems and make progress to resolve other negative effects of the dam in the next eight years.

Over the past few months, the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi have continued to suffer the worst drought since 1954. The water of Poyang Lake – China's largest body of fresh water – has shrunk by 34 percent compared to the same period last year. Dongting Lake – the nation's second-largest freshwater lake – is about 31 percent smaller than it was this time last year, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The drought has not only hurt water supplies, it has also devastated natural wetlands. It was reported that the Honghu wetland in Jingzhou has been so badly affected that scientists estimate its restoration will take at least ten years.

As time goes by, Three Gorges Dam will continue to cause more ecological, climatic and geological problems. Thus, successfully executing the Three Gorges Follow-up Plan will be a arduous task for local, provincial, and national authorities.

In the environmental and social restoration efforts, China Three Gorges Corporation (CTGC) should assume overall responsibility. Only in this way can we avoid the corruption of policymaking and public opinion by powerful corporate interests.

Unfortunately, since the dam's construction, the region has been subject to undue corporate influence. According to the reports, China Three Gorges Tourism Development Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the CTGC, controls all tourism enterprises in the region. However, thus far, this company and its parent company have had insufficient participation in the Three Gorges Follow-Up Plan. In the meantime, a recent audit by the National Audit Office, China's primary auditor, found that CTGC had financial problems.

Our neighbor, Japan, has set an example for disaster management and corporate accountability. In the aftermath of the March 2011 East Japan earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Japanese government issued a statement on May 3 that there would be no limit to the compensation required of Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power company.

In addition, the Japanese government mandated that each year the amount of compensation required from Tokyo Electric Power would be controlled, to allow the company not to acquire a dangerous level of debt. Government officials explained that the regulation was necessary in order to ensure the stability of electricity supply to the metropolitan area.

Like Tokyo Electric, the CTGC must be held accountable for ecological and social damage it has caused the region. The company's full participation and leadership in the Three Gorges Follow-up Plan is an important step in reversing the harm done.

The author is a social commentator in Beijing.

(This article was first published in Chinese and translated by An Wei.)

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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