Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
mental scientists, through complacence, corruption, or malfeasance, produce reports of du-
bious quality; and a convoluted, multiagency approach to IRBM can result in the “nine-
dragon” problem in which the lines of responsibility are obscured.
In short, the crucial shortfall that allows social and environmental costs to be external-
ized or written off is accountability. 1 Procedural statutes such as EIA and SIA admittedly
constitute thin ground on which to build such accountability. But to argue that they don't
work at all is to ignore the evidence: the Nu River projects were stalled for a decade by
prominent officials who invoked the EIA Law in their consistent demands for a cautious
approach; and the improved compensation standards on the Lancang River were supported
by SIA reports from other dam projects, including the Three Gorges Dam, that exposed so-
cial problems and advocated for change.
If progress toward a more just accounting of social costs is to be made, it will require
consideration of the most challenging issue in China's economic transformation: rural land
tenure. Villagers in Yunnan, like villagers elsewhere in China, enjoy usufruct rights over
their land via the Household Responsibility System, but they hold no formal land title,
which still belongs to the rural cooperatives, the vestiges of communal farming during the
socialist period. Many of the failings of current compensation policies derive ultimately
from this sort of institutional indeterminacy: the government recognizes use rights and de-
termines compensation levels based on lost agricultural income, while refusing to recog-
nize ownership or salability of land and failing to acknowledge the importance of informal
resource-harvesting rights. This narrow definition of land rights, which is codified in the
PRC'sConstitution, all butensures that inadequate compensation will continue. Ihave sug-
gested that the Five Energy Giants and other energy-development interests benefit from the
status quo because government policies ensure that land ownership and salability, which
represent the most valuable portion of the land-rights bundle, are beyond the reach of rural
villagers and therefore do not merit compensation.
It is worthwhile to consider the following question as a simple mental exercise: How
much would it cost to compensate people adequately for displacement from their land
and dispossession of their homes? To take the Nu River projects as one brief example,
I have noted that the total cost of just four of the dams—Maji, Lumadeng, Yabiluo, and
Lushui—runs to 42.4 billion yuan, including 1.8 billion yuan for resettlement costs, a fig-
ure that includes compensation given to households. Meanwhile, current estimates sug-
gest that annual revenue from the sale of hydropower may amount to 16 billion yuan. This
means that monetary consideration of the human beings who incur the greatest damages
from the projects accounts for just 4 percent of the upfront capital expenditures. Moreover,
in the decades to come, villagers will see only a miniscule portion—far less than one per-
cent—of the long-term financial benefits derived from the sale of hydropower. This dis-
crepancy seems like an obvious problem that can be addressed with minimal effort. The
marginal cost of doubling or even tripling compensation rates, viewed in the light of total
Search WWH ::

Custom Search