The dam at Pubugou is the largest of an enormous project to build seventeen large-scale dams, in addition to 356 smaller power plants, along the Dadu river, a tributary of the Yangtze River in Sichuan Province. Power generation was expected to start in 2008, and the entire project was slated to be completed by 2010 .
There were plans for a dam project around the Pubugou area as early as 1952, but they were scrapped because it would have been bad for the local farmers rights when the newly established People’s Republic was implementing policies to benefit the social class on whose backs the Revolution had been fought and won – the peasants. Under the orders of Mao Zedong, the project was put on hold indefinitely” (Ibid, p.68).
In the Fall of 2004, up to a hundred thousand people demonstrated against the imminent groundbreaking of the Pubugou Dam and against the acquiescence of local governments to the resettlement of almost half of Hanyuan’s total population. The protests occurred over the course of several weeks, with clashes between peasants and police and the destruction of vehicles and other state property (ibid, p. 65). Most of the protesters were from townships in Hanyuan county – Wangong, Fuquan and Dashu. They were outraged over meagre compensation for requisitioned farmland, and alleged official corruption involving embezzlement of the relocation funds .
On October 28, 2004, protesters actually occupied the dam itself. These demonstrations culminated in the detention of the party secretary of Sichuan province for several hours by an angry mob before he was able to escape through a back door. The protests which last one week were eventually broken up by the police and the army. According to local media reports, following this stand-off, the central government ordered more compensation for relocating residents from 320 yuan (U.S. $38) per square meter of living space to 428 yuan (U.S. $51).
The Pubugou protests were said to be the biggest since those of the 1989 democracy movement and reportedly the largest rural protests since the founding of the People’s Republic. It is therefore ironic, even baffling, that these protests had absolutely no effect on the dam project aside from delaying the floodgates of the diversion channel .
In 2010, authorities began demolishing houses and forcing the remaining people who refused to accept resettlement from their homes near the Pubugou hydroelectic power project. " They are forcibly demolishing houses," a resident of Hanyuan county, where the evictions took place, said. "They all came together in the night. The armed police, the regular police, the county Party secretary and officials," said the resident, surnamed Cao.
The first generator was put into operation in December 2009 and the rest by March 2010 .