330,000 Chinese make way for giant dam

A third of a million Chinese citizens must leave their homes to make way for a new waterway - in the biggest relocation scheme since China built the Three Gorges Dam.

The multi-billion-dollar South-North Water Diversion Project (SNWD) to divert water from southern China to its arid north will see 180,000 people relocated form Hubei Province and 150,000 from neighbouring Henan.

The first 500 villagers left their homes this week and by 2014 their old homes will be

under 170m of water.

One told state-owned news agency Xinhua the government had paid for a slap up meal and a band to cheer up the departing residents.

He said: “I am surprised nobody cried when the coaches left our village. Last night, we felt sorrow when the whole village gathered to have our last dinner in our hometown together.”

The villagers will be moved to new homes around 300km away and are part of the first wave of relocations.

The number is expected to rise to 60,000 by the end of September. In recent years, China’s northern megacities of Beijing and Tianjin have faced frequent drought in recent years despite a surplus of water in the sub-tropical south of the country.

The projects aims to redress the balance and ensure these sprawling cities, key Chinese administrative and commercial hubs, are sustainable long-term.

Officials have promised those moving homes have been promised property at least as good as that which they leave behind.

They will also receive government subsidies for the next 20 years together with one-off compensation payments for each household, it is understood.

Xinhua says that this first wave is expecting improved accommodation as well as enough food for a week and new cooking utensils.

David Gibbs

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