Environment and Resettlement Politics in China: The Three Gorges Project

Hampshire (UK), Ashgate, 2004, 296 p.

This boook, based on the author's doctoral dissertation, discusses the resettlement and environmental policymaking in relation to the Three Gorges dam currently being constructed on the Yangtze River in China. The construction of the dam began in 1994 and will be completed in 2009.

The purpose of the study is to shed light on the decision-making process for the Three Gorges project resettlement as 1.1 - 1.2 million people will be resettled due to the dam. The point of departure for the study is the resettlement policy change that took place in May 1999. This decision involved moving one-third of the rural population away from the reservoir area to other provinces in China in order to reduce the pressure on the environment in the reservoir area. Originally the relocatees were to settle within the reservoir area.

The study discusses the following three explanatory factors for the policy change: i) Increased focus on environmental issues in general in China and in relation to this dam project; ii) Problems that have emerged in the resettlement process that made the policy change necessary such as limited farmland iii) Changes in Chinese society where information and knowledge have become increasingly important in the decision-making process. New Premier in 1998 has contributed to openness regarding the problems related to the dam project, which has been reflected in critical articles in the state media.

The study makes use of the fragmented authoritarianism theory and concludes that information from experts play a greater role in the Three Gorges resettlement policymaking process than what the theory indicates. Also, the Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction model (IRR) is employed in the resettlement discussion. The study concludes that despite the risk-consciousness of the Chinese authorities with regard to reconstruction people's livelihoods in resettlement projects, little emphasis is put on the social aspect of resettlement. Thus, the IRR model would be an important tool for Chinese authorities.


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