Saturday, March 21, 2009

175 Meters

Getting out on the Yangtze River and witnessing first hand the rippling effects of the truly gargantuan Three Gorges Dam project was one of the most thought provoking events of our year abroad so far.

During the entire cruise, I kept thinking of all the cities beneath us. As I looked into the beautiful green waters, I was almost hoping to see evidence of this newly created Atlantis. But the cities are now as deep as the feelings that must be present in the people of this region.

I was curious to know how the locals felt about moving, and how they now feel about their new homes. Are they sad that they had to relocate? Or are they actually relieved to have a new place to call their own?

I considered some popular thought from the Western perspective of preserving history, and wondered if that is just a pie-in-the-sky view from afar. Do we, as foreigners, just miss the mark as we sit on our plush couches trying to impose our views on a culture we may not fully understand? (Don't get me wrong...I totally appreciate historical preservation as well as public opinion.)

In reality, the opinions are mixed. In spending a few days with locals from the affected river towns (Wushan, in particular), a few laobaixing shared their thoughts. One group of middle-aged people were very excited about the change, stating that the move was a great opportunity to relocate to cleaner, newer conditions. For some of the elderly residents, though, the reaction was less favorable, since for many the move was from flatter land to a much steeper, much less convenient area located on the side of a mountain.

So as the water continues to rise to the level of 175 meters, so too does my curiosity about how things once were, as well as what will become of these people and their new lives. While the pride in what China has accomplished through this human feat is evident in most, only time will tell what the true ramifications will be...locally, nationally, and world wide.



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