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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK
Chinese villagers dig up tombs
Three Gorges
The dam will create a 600km reservoir
Villagers living near China's controversial Three Gorges dam project are moving thousands of ancestral tombs which would otherwise be submerged under water.

The government is already resettling more than one million residents whose homes are set to vanish under the 600km long reservoir which the giant dam will create.
Yangtze flood
China hopes the dam will stop devastating floods

But now it is reportedly offering financial help to relocate their ancestors as well.

At least 10,000 tombs will fall below the water line of the reservoir which will stretch from Chongqing to Sandouping.

Cremation

Most families in the area follow the traditional custom of holding memorial ceremonies at their ancestors' graves.

The government has allocated 10 million yuan ($1.21m) to help residents remove and rebury the remains of their families, according to an official quoted by the Xinhua news agency.
Resettled child
More than 1m people are being resettled

It said most residents were cremating the remains of deceased family members and then reburying the ashes. The government will arrange to remove unclaimed graves, it added.

Dachang town, which is noted for its ancient buildings and exquisitely decorated tombs, has already been relocated on a hill outside the flood area, Xinhua said.

Controversy

The 185m high Three Gorges dam will be the largest hydro-electric project in the world when completed in 2009.
Three Gorges dam
Chinese revolutionary hero Dr Sun Yat Sen dreamt up the project 80 years ago

The government also hopes it will prevent the kind of flooding which has plagued the Yangtze for centuries and which claimed thousands of lives in 1998.

But critics say it is a waste of money, will do untold damage to the environment around the river and destroy hundreds of antiquities.

Some have suggested that the energy could have been provided by building lots of smaller dams which would have avoided the current mass relocation.

China says 1.07m people are being displaced, but critics say the figure is nearer 1.9m.

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See also:

16 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
China dam faces cash flow crisis
23 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese dams damned
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