07.08.98 : BIO BIO : VIOLENCE WORSENS RALCO SITUATION
SOURCE: EL MERCURIO
SOURCE: LA TERCERA
. The conflict
over Endesa's controversial Ralco hydroelectric project worsened
Thursday as members of Mapuche organizations reportedly
attacked acting Planning Minister Antonio Lara and members of
the Pehuenche committee who support the project at the offices of
the National Indigenous Development Board (Conadi) in Santiago.
Minister Lara had to leave a press conference in haste and
shut himself in an office for over an hour because some Mapuche
and ecologists began to throw tea cups and saucers.
While Conadi personnel called the police, the eight
indigenous Conadi board members met to seek a solution to this
increasingly tense situation. They will release a proposal today,
aiming to improve relations between the government and
Conadi was supposed to declare Friday whether it recognizes
the land contracts signed between Endesa and 84 Pehuenche
families. The atmosphere, however, turned from unstable to
chaotic Wednesday when President Frei, keen to see approval for
the project, requested the resignation of Conadi Director Domingo
Namuncura. Conadi has since postponed the decision for 15 days.
President Frei defended his actions yesterday, saying the
government always tries to follow the law and protect the
interests of the citizenry. Namuncura was obviously not in
agreement with government thinking, which was why his
resignation was requested, Frei said.
Chile Information Project
Aleta Brown,Campaign Associate
International Rivers Network, 1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703 USA, Phone: 1.510.848.1155
Fax: 1.510.848.1008, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In an attempt to crush opposition to Ralco Dam on Chile's
President Eduardo Frei has demanded the resignation of Domingo Namancura,
director of Chile's Indigenous Council (CONADI). Namancura is seen as
sympathetic to the plight of the indigenous Pehuenche people to be
displaced by the project.
Namancura, originally a proponent of the project, spent more than a year in
the upper Biobío interviewing Pehuenche families and investigating the land
barter contracts between Pehuenches and Endesa, the power company which
intends to build the $500 million Ralco Dam. The project would displace 600
people, 400 of them Pehuenches.
This is the second time that Frei has removed a CONADI
director who was
critical of the project. Namancura's predecessor, Mauricio Huenchulaf, was
also removed by Frei because of his pro-Pehuenche position. "Neither
Huenchulaf and Namancura have turned out to be the puppets that Frei
expected," said Luis Mariano Rendón, national coordinator of Chile's
RENACE. "In the end, they did not agree to crush the rights of the
The 16-member CONADI board may vote today on whether or
not to accept the
Ralco project. The board is made up of eight government and eight
indigenous appointees. The director's vote is the swing vote. Last week two
other government appointed members were asked to resign. Reportedly, they
were also opposed to Ralco.
According to Chile's 1993 Indigenous Law, Endesa can't
without written consent from all members of the community. Though many
families signed a land-barter contract with Endesa, an internal CONADI
document allegedly reports that some of the families were coerced into
signing the contracts.
The indigenous members of CONADI are threatening to resign
from the board
and remove themselves from any further negotiations with the government.
"They have lost faith in the government and are losing faith in the
indigenous law," said Cristian Opaso of Grupo de Acción por el Biobío
(Biobío Action Group).
On Wednesday, 5 August, 1,000 people gathered in Santiago
to protest the
project and to support the rights of the Pehuenche. In the upper Biobío
region, Pehuenches and their supporters are attempting to stop the
preliminary construction works. In the days and weeks to come, more
protests are expected in the upper Biobío region and Santiago.
International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703 USA
Halfway through this year's flood season in Southern China
there is already
a death toll of more than 2,500 people. Twenty-two million acres of
farmland and 2.9 million homes have been destroyed. Drinking water
contaminated by sewage flooding into groundwater wells is leading to
outbreaks of dysentery and cholera.
Proponents of the Three Gorges Dam are claiming that the
should stop similar flood disasters in future. Project critics, however,
such as Qinghua University hydrologist Professor Huang Wanli and Beijing
journalist Dai Qing, point out that the authorities are seriously
overstating its flood control benefits.
Critics say that the Three Gorges Dam could even worsen
flooding in certain
areas and that China would make better use of the billions of dollars being
spent on the dam by investing it in maintaining the 30,000 km of dikes
along the Yangtze River and its tributaries. Money should also be spent on
the upkeep of overflow lakes along the middle and lower Yangtze which can
old three times as much water as the Three Gorges reservoir is planned to
Lu Youmei, Chairman of the Three Gorges Development Corporation
Sunday, August 2, that:
"The flood this year has again proven that it is correct
to have the Three
Gorges Project as soon as possible. If the Three Gorges Project had already
been completed, the problems of flood control would have already been solved."
Leading opponent of the project, Dai Qing replies:
"An audience without previous knowledge or research on
flood control might
be fooled by Lu's speech. It was not explained clearly that the areas most
affected by the floods are in the lower-middle and lower reaches of the
Yangtze. The Three Gorges Project will not help control floods in these
regions. Waters in these areas also come from the Li, Yuan, Zi, Qing and
Xiang rivers. In fact, because the Three Gorges Dam is absorbing such
massive amounts of public funds - for example, 60 billion yuan ($7.3 bn)
has been allocated to the project this year alone - the central and local
governments cannot spare money for necessary strengthening of embankments."
A China Youth Daily report from February of this year
warned that most of
the dikes and dams built in the 1950s and 1960s have been neglected and
"could collapse with catastrophic consequences." The same report warned
that there could be a repetition of the August 1975 disaster when 230,000
people died in Henan province.after the collapse of the Banqiao and
Shimantan dams during a typhoon.
President of International Rivers Network Dr. Philip Williams,
hydrologist and specialist on US flood management policies says:
"What's happening now is a vivid illustration of the failure
flood control policies. China is building gigantic projects such as the
Three Gorges and Xiaolangdi dams while neglecting their existing flood
management system. The US is just starting to realize that its own 50-year
dam building binge failed to control floods and that more sophisticated
flood management techniques are needed. China could be learning and
profiting from the mistakes of the US. Instead, our mistakes are being
Professor Huang Wanli warns that:
"People who have devoted so much work to the [Three Gorges]
have spent money will try anything to defend their project. I hope that
there will be a public discussion so that I can elaborate on my concerns of
sedimentation and project feasibility can be discussed. This construction
work would not be a total waste even if the dam project was canceled; the
sooner it is stopped, the better."
Dai Qing says that:
"There is no need to build this expensive, environmentally
culturally destructive dam. If the real issues of the Three Gorges Project
could be discussed openly and truthfully then people would realize that it
cannot solve China's flood problem."
- Zhang Kun, China Youth Daily report, China's Old Dams are in
- Interview with Professor Huang Wanli 7/22/98
Available from IRN (faxed upon request):
- Sklar-Leurs Associates "Report on a Site visit to the Three Gorges
Yangtze River, Hubei Province, China, Oct 17-18, 1997.
- Professor Huang Wanli, "Never Dam the Three Gorges" from "Yangtze!
Yangtze!" an interview with Dai Qing.
- Wu Yegang, The Costs China Will Pay for the Three Gorges Dam Project,
Modern China Studies, No. 3, 1997
- Philip Williams, "Inviting Trouble Downstream", Civil Engineering,
- Dai Qing, "The River Dragon Has Come!: The Three Gorges Dam and
of China's Yangtze River and It's People" M.E. Sharpe 1997
- International Rivers Network, Three Gorges Project Briefing Packet,
China Youth Daily (Feb. 26, 1998)
By Zhang Kun
"China's Old Dams are in Danger"
The general managers of three major dams in Anhui went
to Hefei on Feb. 11
to plead for urgent action to be taken to 'save China's old dams'.
Fouziling, Meishan, Xianghongdian, along with Mozitan
and Longhekou are the
major five reservoirs built in western Anhui to harness Huaihe river.
After 40 years of operation, the old dams which run in
over capacity for
years are worn out and in danger.
With more and more new star dams dazzling people's eyes,
generation old dams have been forgotten.
-Signals sent by 'sick dams'-
Foziling in Huoshan county is the first large scale valley
by new China. Soon after it was completed in 1954, crevices were found on
several spots of the dam and it was reinforced and repaired twice
respectively in 1965 and 1969.
On October 21, 1993 the dam observer found with instrument
that the dam was
moving downward with a distance far more bigger than that allowed! A
state-class special inspection team drew a conclusion in 1995 that Foziling
was a sick dam with major problems such as enlarged crevices, leaks in
several areas, low strength, and dam body displacement. But several years
have passed and nearly no repairs have been made. Therefore the water has
to be kept at a low level and it is in danger of dam collapse whenever
serious floods happens.
An old engineer who participated in the construction of
the dam will weep
anytime he mentions the sick dam: 'Do you know how serious it can be when
the dam collapse? Our Banqiao-Shimantan reservoir (with the same capacity
as Foziling) in Henan collapsed in 1975 and flooded a million mu of
cropland and killed more than 200,000 people. In comparison with that
reservoir, the lower reach of Foziling, Meishan and Xianghongdian, which
include ten counties of two provinces, inhabits over ten million people and
has over millions mu of high yield cropland, what a disaster it will be (if
the dams collapse)!'
The condition of Meishan and Xianghongdian are not good.
diversion steel pipe of Maishan dam needs urgent explosion-proof treatment,
its flood spillway needs urgent repair, the heavy curtain of the dam has
lost its efficiency. A fault was discovered in the left top of the dam of
Xianghongdian dam· According to China's experts, most of the old dams built
in the 50s and 60s have suffered 'sickness' in different extent and some
are seriously deformed. All these old dams have been neglected for a long
time and cannot get necessary investments. They are all threatened by the
hidden danger of dam collapse.
-The unreasonable 8%-
Diao Caofa, director of the Foziling hydropower station,
says "Until the
end of 1997, the total losses of Foziling, Meishan and Xianghongdian are
over 100 million yuan, in which Foziling alone lost 17 million yuan only in
1997. But in the dam repair budget, the two arches of Foziling will cost
over 14 million yuan, where can we fork the money from?" Diao proceeds:
"The overall benefit made by the three major dams in flood control, water
irrigation and electricity generation, in which electricity accounts for
only 8%. But it is the 8% of electricity income that bears all the cost of
maintenance and management, how can it be enough and how can we bear the
Why are the old dams, which the state has placed enormous
material resources to build, reduced to such a poverty that they can hardly
maintain their own simple reproduction? Experts give the following reasons:
- The old system which is under the sway of departmental
separation responds slowly to the change in demand and supply. Therefore
the government cannot conduct proper management of state-owned assets.
A water resources expert told me that most of the large
and medium sized
water resources projects were built by the state in the 1950s and 60s and
charged no money for the water supply. It is impossible even to keep this
The three hydropower stations were released by the ministry
and were put
under provincial control in 1985 and since then they have had to provide
funds from their meager incomes to support surrounding counties. At first
they gave 0.013 yuan per kilowatt and now it has gone up to 0.02 yuan. The
state only orders a 0.001 yuan of maintenance funds.
The three hydropower stations have paid a total sum of
100 million yuan to
local counties for 16 years. It nearly balances the total losses. Hu
Laiqin, head of Meishan hydropower station, complained: "The water fee our
three stations paid to Jinzhai and Huoshan county added up to 72.9 million
yuan from 1981 to 1993. Only the electricity allowance we paid them is
enough to cover the resettlement expenses. But they are still scrounging
us, giving no help but always taking advantage of us."
Instead of collecting money for water supply, stations
need to pay for
water. Due to inflation, staff increase, maintenance expenses, depreciation
of equipment, the figure of electricity generation keep dropping and the
cost is going up.
Whenever flood discharge is felt necessary, the flood
control command will
give its order. Whenever the farmland in the lower reach need irrigation,
the Pi-Shi-Hang irrigation area administrative bureau has the right to
order free water discharge.
- The hydropower development is not put in an important
position and thus
lead to the strong contrast between high social benefit and low economic
According to our study, the proportion of hydropower in
industry keeps dropping. In 1996 we did not started any new large and
medium sized hydropower projects. In 1997 we started building several
projects with a total capacity of only 1.6 million kw.
-When will the old dams be rejuvenated?-
The builders and the department concerned put forward
solutions to bring the old dams out of trouble:
1.System reform. The current system in which the reservoir
is managed by
hydropower stations is unfavorable to the development of flood protection.
The funding of the two shall be separated and the reservoirs shall started
to charge beneficiary areas for water supply and the money shall be fully
used on the maintenance and overhaul of dam and the upgrading of equipment.
Engineer Zhang Qichen said: 'Three stations put the overall situation in
priority in the past 40 years by providing over 300 million cubic meters of
water each year to the irrigation areas free of charge. It is time now to
get some return.'
2. The state shall set aside special funds for water resources
support the construction and maintenance of large and medium sized
projects. The central point of the current situation is the absence of
owners of the state owned assets. Managers can't solve these problems.
Water resources projects need big investment and thus hard to be controlled
through price leverage and market competition. They can only be managed
through policy making and macro-economic control.
Huang Wanli graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering
Communications University in 1932. He then traveled to the United States
and in 1935 received a master's degree in civil engineering from Cornell
University. In 1937 he earned a Ph.D. in the same field from the
University of Illinois. Upon returning to China, under the Nationalist
government, Huang became the technical supervisor of the Water Resources
Department of the All-China Economic Committee, an engineer in the Water
Resources Bureau of the Sichuan Province government, and engineering
Interview with Huang Wanli: 7/22/98 10:00 am, Beijing.
Q1: Will the Three Gorges Project provide any flood control benefits for
the Yangtze River area? Would the TGP be able to have any effect on the
floods that China is experiencing now?
A: The Three Gorges Project will bring little benefits
of flood protection
in the lower reaches of the Yangtze. It will instead have many adverse
impacts. In the present peak flooding season, in order to protect the
coffer dam at the dam construction site, flood water has to be discharged
at a maximum capacity. This puts tremendous pressure on the lower reaches
of the Yangtze to battle floodwaters from not only the Yangtze, but other
tributaries that flow into the Yangtze downstream of Sandouping (dam site).
The flooding season in Yangtze River normally lasts one to two months. It
is not going to be over soon. If the river banks in Hubei Province are not
strong enough to resist several months of flood pressure at high water
levels, a likely solution would be to break the banks and flood some
selected areas in order to discharge water.
Q2: What are some of the geological problems with building the TGP?
A: In its upper reaches, the Yangtze River carries
700 million tons of mud
and sand, plus 100 million tons of gravel downstream each year. The Chinese
government only considered how to prevent the deposit of mud and sand, but
ignored the deposit of gravel. The government thinks that there were only
700 million tons of mud and sand moving downstream each year, not enough to
worry about. In fact, the biggest negative impact of a high dam on the
Yangtze River is the deposition of gravel upstream from the dam. When the
Three Gorges Dam is built, the river's flow speed and reservoir capacity
will be reduced. There will be a large amount of gravel deposited in the
river course between Fengjie and Chongqing, forming submerged gravel dams,
elevating the river bed along Hechuan area. This will also raise the water
levels in Jialing River, Qu River and Pei River, threatening Jiangjin and
the farm lands along tributaries of the Yangtze River. Besides, due to the
flow speed reduction, gravel will be deposited between the Three Gorges and
Wuhan. New farmland formation by sediments at the Yangtze estuary will be
significantly reduced. Presently, between Yibin, Sichuan Province, and the
Three Gorges, there are already ten to thirty meters deep of gravel
deposited on the river bed. The thickness will be increased rapidly in the
future, elevating the riverbed. The Chinese government has already quietly
admitted this previously ignored problem. There is a plan to build dykes in
the mountains along the tributaries in Sichuan Province to block falling
rocks. But this measurement may not be efficient. The gravel in the river
does not fall from the mountains; the gravel is dug up along the riverbanks
by the flowing water and carried into the current.
Q3: What is the status of the Three Gorges project?
A: At this moment, the Three Gorges Dam Navigation
Section has been closed
for navigation. Downstream from the flow-blocking dyke, the construction
team has stopped digging for the dam foundation. The dam needs to be built
on bedrock. Therefore several-dozen-meters thick of gravel on top of the
bed rock are being removed before the dam is being built on top. However,
at this peak flooding season, the coffer dam is under tremendous pressure
from the high water level. But if gravel is removed from the base of the
coffer dam, the dam will be endangered. That is why the construction team
has stopped digging temporarily. The project officials strictly controls
information on the detailed development of the Three Gorges Project. It is
very difficult to know the details there. The sooner the project is
halted, the better.
International Rivers Network Doris Shen
Three Gorges Campaign email@example.com
1847 Berkeley Way tel: 510.848.1155 ext. 317
Berkeley, CA 94720 fax: 510.848.1008
BEIJING (AP) -- Waterlogged levees along China's flood-swollen
Yangtze River have started to collapse,
wreaking death and destruction on a massive scale, state media said today. Other reports said more than 1,000
people were missing.
Torrential rains in southwest Sichuan province also have
triggered flooding that killed at least 20 people,
pushing the known death toll from floods caused by unusually heavy and early summer rains to 1,288.
With a tropical storm and another flood tide expected,
the threat mounted of further breaches along the
weakened levees that protect millions of people and rich farmland from the Yangtze, the world's third-longest
Main Yangtze dikes remain intact but secondary levees
were breached in at least two counties and a city in
central China's Hubei province, ``causing huge loss of life and property,'' the official China Youth Daily
The newspaper gave no casualty figures. But a human rights
group said 150 soldiers and hundreds of villagers
were swept away when a levee suddenly collapsed Saturday in Hubei's Jiayu County, about 40 miles upriver from the
industrial center of Wuhan.
As of Monday, the bodies of nine soldiers had been recovered,
said the Information Center of Human Rights
and Democratic Movement in China. The Hong Kong-based group said more than 1,000 people were believed missing.
Local officials have barred foreign journalists from visiting the worst flood areas, and state-controlled
media tend to provide delayed or conflicting accounts and downplay casualties.
The official Yangcheng Evening News said 400 soldiers
were swept away when the levee that had been protecting
56,000 people in two towns collapsed. Soldiers and police pulled nearly 20,000 people from the water, the
In a bid to lower the Yangtze's waters, Hubei authorities
abandoned 11 small dikes to divert
floodwaters, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. The strategy caused $48 million in flood damage, but helped
More than 100,000 people lost their homes when a levee
burst in Anxiang, in neighboring Hunan province, on July
24, Xinhua reported. Victims were living in tents, ``without adequate food and drinking water,'' the agency
In all, the 3,900-mile-long Yangtze was threatening to
burst its embankments in 3,200 places, and 1,800 of
these possible breaches were ``major,'' Xinhua said.
``The flood control situation along the Yangtze remains extremely serious and will remain so for the foreseeable
future,'' it reported.
Millions of soldiers and civilians have been working the
dikes, watching for signs of collapse and plugging
leaks, as waters on the Yangtze reached levels unseen since floods in 1954 killed more than 30,000 people.
Aside from killing 20 people, the floods in Sichuan province in recent days also injured 370 people and left
two others missing, Xinhua said.
A flood peak, the fourth this year, was forming on the
upper reaches of the Yangtze, the China Youth Daily
International Rivers Network
Three Gorges Campaign firstname.lastname@example.org
1847 Berkeley Way tel: 510.848.1155 ext. 317
Berkeley, CA 94720 fax: 510.848.1008