Hand over money, villagers told
Villagers in Yunnan and Sichuan being moved to make way for two massive dams have been told by local governments to hand over 30,720 yuan (HK$37,620) per head from the compensation they receive for the loss of their homes and farmland. And some who do not get that much compensation have been warned they may have to dip into their own pockets to make up the difference.
The Xiangjiaba dam is being built on the Jinsha (Yangtze) River on the mountainous border between Sichuan and Yunnan, about 33 kilometres upstream from the city of Yibin , and the Xiluodu dam is being built 160 kilometres further upstream. They are the country's largest dams after the Three Gorges dam.
The homes of at least 125,000 people in six Yunnan and Sichuan counties will soon be inundated by the rising waters of the Xiangjiaba dam, which will begin filling next month.
Local authorities, who have been struggling to make today's deadline to resettle thousands of families, insist that the 'mandatory compensation deduction', to be paid back at the monthly rate of 160 yuan per person for the next 16 years, is aimed at helping people better manage their money, but locals are not convinced.
'I can't imagine how I can get by on just 160 yuan a month, which is barely enough to cover meals,' said Lei Shiqin, 53, from Huangguo village, in the town of Huanghua in Yongshan county, Yunnan.
Lei is among more than 4,200 Huangguo villagers, more than half of the village's population, to be evicted by the end of this year to make way for the Xiluodu dam.
'I am so worried and have so many questions that no cadres have bothered to respond to,' she said.
'Where are we going to be moved? How can we survive after we lose the fertile farmland that has supported my family of three for decades?'
Yongshan county officials and the village's Communist Party chief, Lei Shibin, (not related to Lei Shiqin) admit that most Huangguo villagers may get no compensation at all for their small but profitable farms due to the controversial deduction policy.
Indeed, they may have to dip into their own pockets to make up the difference between the rather limited compensation they do receive and the mandatory deduction, Lei Shibin explained.
Although some county officials said the central and provincial governments would cover the difference, villagers say they have no faith in such statements by the authorities.
Local officials in several affected counties have said that impoverished grass-roots governments need the money from the deduction to cover a shortfall in resettlement funding, according to reports by Caijing magazine and other mainland media.