Large reservoir projects typically occupy vast lots of rural land and trigger resettlement on a massive scale. In China’s reservoir context, increasing concerns have arisen regarding distant-resettlees (those who are resettled outside the reservoir area), while fewer studies have examined the nearby-resettlees (those who are resettled near the original area) and the non-movers (those who do not resettle). The significance of these two groups has been downplayed and their populations are in the millions (or more) in China. How and why they are impacted is under-researched and their relative position and intergroup nexus with the distant-resettlees remains unclear in the existing literature. To address this research gap, this paper incorporates the differences between nearby-resettlees and non-movers and collectively refers to them as the “stayers” as they are left behind in reservoir areas. Based on the background of reservoir-induced resettlement in present-day China, and a review of the project-induced impacts, we use Danjiangkou Reservoir as a case study. The findings indicate that the stayers are largely disadvantaged in terms of land assets, housing conditions, finance, infrastructure, industrialisation, livelihood strategies, and emotional impact, while many distant-resettlees are less affected or positively impacted in these aspects. Through the lens of the political nature of reservoir-induced resettlements, we interpret the gaps between the distant-resettlees and stayers. Finally, domestic and global policy implications and further comments are presented.
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