The 6400MW Xiangjiaba Hydropower Plant, owned by China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG), is the last step of a cascade development on the lower mainstream of Jinsha River, of which Yibin County of Sichuan Province is on the left bank and Shuifu County of Yunnan Province is on the right bank.
The Xiangjiaba hydropower station’s normal impoundment level is 380 meters. The Xiangjiaba reservoir has a total storage capacity of 5.185 billion m3, and its active storage capacity is 905 million m3.The dam has a seasonal drawdown period. The Xiangjiaba Dam has eight 800 MW generating units and a total capacity of 6,400 MW. Its annual electricity production will average 30.747 billion TWH. Xiangjiaba is China's third-biggest hydropower station following Three Gorge and Xiluodu with an investment of almost 70 billion yuan.
The construction of the Xiangjiaba Project officially began in 2006. The river closure was realized in 2008. The first 3 generating units were put into service in 2012, and the whole project was completed in July 2014 after 10 years of construction. The power generated by Xiangjiaba will be supplied to mainly central and east China and also to Sichuan and Yunnan during the drought period. As an important part of China's Great Western Development Programme, the project is expected to drive local social and economic development. The project is a multipurpose scheme. Aside from its main purpose of power generation, it has also been developed for flood control, navigation improvement, and irrigation benefits. It will also trap sediment and act as a counter-regulator to the larger Xiluodu scheme.
Altogether, about 100,000 residents in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces were forced to move out before the planned date of impoundment in May 2012 as their homes would be destroyed and land would be flooded. The anxiety of the involuntary displacement and resettlement was strongly raised in Suijiang before being submerged in the dam lake.
According to the compensation scheme announced by the Suijiang County government, the vast majority the residents who lost their land and home will be compensated with an annual rate for their land and also for resettlement implementations without land redistribution from other areas. However, the compensation for their loss of land and the resettlement subsidies will not be sent directly to the resettlers(also as displaced migrants). The Suijiang County government is "co-ordinating" each resettler’s 30,720 yuan, which will be divided and paid as a monthly rate of 160 yuan per capita for 16 years onwards.
The anxieties, doubts, confusions, and dissatisfactions of the resettlers were triggered by the low resettlement standards and compensation rates, difficulties to find a job to sustain their livelihoods after losing land, in combination with rumors that the local governments were misappropriating and deducting the resettlement compensations. At the same time, officials from the government were also quite frustrated while admitting that most of the appeals from the resettlers are reasonable; whether the impoundment could start in the scheduled time or not was also worried by the Three Gorges Corporation. The unsolved conflictive issues among China Three Gorges Corporation, the local governments, and the resettlers accumulated in the past years and finally caused the massive violent incident at the end of March 2011 in Suijiang.
The story began with salt. On 11 March 2011, the big earthquake and the tsunami happened in Japan triggered “waves of salt rush” in mainland China since people are worried about the radiation of nuclear power. Some of the resettlers found that the price of 0.5kg salt increased to 10 yuan, according to the local resettlement policies, each of the resettlers would receive 160 yuan per month in the following years, “Is it enough to buy salt?” On 17 March, several resettlers petitioned to Suijiang County government to ask for an explanation and were told that, on 25 March, the government will be open to receive visitors to hear their complaints.
25 March, 2011 was the deadline for all the resettlers in Suijiang County to sign the relocation and resettlement agreements. Prior to this, all the public servants and people who worked in public enterprises and institutes had signed the agreements before 10 March under the threat that they will be suspended without payments if they do not sign. Due to time constraints, all the departments of the county government had stopped their daily work; officials were fully committed to the massive mobilization of signing agreements with resettlers; in the meanwhile, they should ensure that the resettlers would not petition to higher level governments; overdue public servants and officials who cannot complete their assigned tasks also faced penalties.
This was considered as “mission impossible”. Everyone could feel the tension in the Suijiang County when 25th of March 2011 was coming, resettlers whose land was expropriated started to gather at the main gate of the county government, demanding the government to "make the policy transparent" and "solve the resettlers’ difficulties", while the latter failed to give a reply that satisfied the landless resettlers. Around 10 AM, many resettlers started to block the main roads to the new site of Suijiang County. The construction company for the resettlement apartments in the new county was Yunnan Construction Engineering Group Co., Ltd. , all the vehicles from the construction company have to go through the blocked intersections. At noon, an SUV from the construction company was blocked and clashed with the road blockers when they tried to cross and the car hit two of the protesters. According to some of the protesters, the persons who were in the SUV were beaten by the protestors because of some exasperated words.
The roads were blocked for 5 days until 29 March. However, the government didn’t respond promptly to the demands from the resettlers, nor did they realize the seriousness of the protest at the beginning. Some of the officials were even continuing their persuasion work with resettlers to conclude the agreements on 25 March. In the evening, some police were trying to maintain the order, but protesters set up tents and started to cook in the siege points, there were several small-scale clashes between the police and the protestors.
During the protest, the resettlers hold banners like “the government eats dirty money, we are h-a-ngry!” Some county residents also joined in the protest to support the rightful resistance by resettlers in the next day. The protesters even hijacked vehicles on the road with beer bottles, the traffic tied up in the whole county. The government only began to evacuate the crowds when two directors from the Urban Construction Bureau were besieged by the protestors. Later in the evening, the director of the Public Security Bureau (Police) who tried to say something to disperse the crowded protestors was besieged too. In the midnight of 26 March, the situation culminated out of control, any forms of threats or inducements did not work. The besieged people from the construction company collapsed, but the ambulance could not reach the place due to the traffic block. The deadlock persisted until the early morning of 27 March, several plainclothes police went to the center to get out of the besieged people in the SUV, while the director of the Public Security Bureau became the main target and was trampled by the crowd. The 3 besieged in the SUV and the Director of the PSB were eventually rescued by the police and sent to hospital. The Suijiang County government reported the situation to the prefectural and provincial level government.
Apart from sporadic clashes, the impasse was continuing on the 27th and 28th of March. At the same time, the county level government organized a meeting on the 27th to negotiate with the resettlers. The representatives expressed their appeals about the inadequate provisions made by the government for the displaced villagers. Low compensation and poor housing are among the chief complaints, plus the transparency of the resettlement policy and the compensation scheme, the problem of unemployment, the possibilities of adopting a different compensation scheme like Pingshan County in Sichuan province, etc.  Indeed, this is not the first time that displaced migrants have protested the dam, located in the south-west Chinese province of Yunnan. In June 2010, prior to the relocation, a demonstration was held at the head office of the project, where dozens of protesters were injured by riot police. There were also various scales of protests and petitions in Pingshan County since 2010, even if residents in Suijiang County would wish their government to learn from their neighbors. The county government responded that the appeals from the resettlers are reasonable, but the resettlement must be implemented in accordance with certain policies. On 28 March, the Suijiang County government announced that all the roadblocks much be dismantled by 24:00 of 28 March, otherwise the protestors “will be disciplined by law”.
On 29 March, several hundreds of riot police were dispatched from the surrounding counties in Yunnan Province to disperse the protesters, the protesters hurled bricks and rocks at the heavily armed police. The protesters were driven away in the same afternoon; about 50 people were injured during the protest, including protestors, policemen, government officials, workers in the construction company.
According to Probe International, another catalyst for this protest appears to have been the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in nearby Myanmar (Burma), and another recent earthquake in Yunnan. They fear that their new homes, built in a seismic zone, may fare as poorly as the shoddily built “tofu” schools that collapsed in the deadly 2008 earthquake in neighboring Sichuan province, killing an estimated 7,000 school children.
As described in the December 2013 issue of Water Power and Dam Construction, the plant was supposed to substantially drive local economic development, help improve the local environment, ease power supply and optimize the energy mix after completion As a backbone power source of the West-East Power Transmission Project, the Xiangjiaba power plant brings grid connection benefits; supplies power mainly for the four provinces in China's central region, China's eastern region as well as Yunnan, Sichuan and Chongqing; substantially eases tight energy supply in these regions. With an annual electricity output of 30.747TWh, Xiangjiaba is expected to replace a coal-fired power plant of equal size, resulting in an annual consumption reduction of some 14 million tons of raw coal and a corresponding CO2 emission reduction of some 25 million tons.
The Xiangjiaba hydropower project brings major flood control benefits, and its combined operation with the Xiluodu hydropower project will improve flood prevention in the downstream coastal cities of Yibin, Luzhou, and Chongqing from the current 5-10-year recurrence to 50-100-year recurrence. The project may also serve to irrigate nearly 3.75M square meters of farmland in Sichuan and Yunnan. Xiangjiaba's navigable structures are designed according to Class 4 channel standard and allow for passage of a 2x500t vessels. At the same time, the reservoir will inundate 84 obstruction rapids, resulting in much better shipping conditions. 
In 2005, the project was temporarily suspended for being located in a national rare fish reserve. The problem was "resolved" when the zone's borders were redrawn. About 1.46 billion yuan has been earmarked by CTGPC for environmental protection. Since the afternoon of July 8th 2014, the Xiangjiaba reservoir area of nearly 100 km long surface began to appear a large number of dead fish, people in the surrounding areas were worried about the environmental and economic impacts.