Chinese villagers dig up tombs

BBC News Online, Friday 16 June 2000, 19:40 GMT 20:40 UK

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.

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.


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.

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.


The 185m high Three Gorges dam will be the largest hydro-electric project in the world when completed in 2009.

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.