Water project leads to mass relocation

08:09, February 24, 2010      

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The Malingkou Reservoir in southwest China's Guizhou Province is seen completely dry. The drought in the province affects 4 million mu (266,800 hectares) of farms and is causing difficulties for 1.5 million people in obtaining drinking water. (Photo: Xinhua)

The mass relocation of residents affected by China's giant South-to-North Water Diversion (SNWD) project will accelerte this year after years of waiting.

Conflicts of interest among different parties and time pressures have made carrying out the plan – the government's second largest in six decades – a big headache for local governments.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, at least 440,000 residents will be relocated to make way for the first stage of the project's eastern and central routes, with 330,000 of them living in Henan and Hubei provinces and around the Danjiangkou Dam reservoir.

The water level of the reservoir will be raised by 10 meters in order to create an incline to transport water to Beijing via the central route.

"More than 100,000 people will be relocated every year from 2010 until 2014, when the central route is expected to be completed," an official from the SNWD project office was quoted by the 21st Century Business Herald as saying Tuesday.

Sun Jianwen, director of the Shiyan Migration Bureau, told the Global Times Tuesday that the burden of 180,000 people's relocation in Hubei Province falls mainly on the Shiyan municipal government, while around 10,000 have so far been resettled, locally or to other cities in the province, as part of the pilot project.

Ding Guangjun and his family, who lived in Junxian county in Shiyan, were among the first batch to begin the exodus. They were moved south to a designated relocation area in Zaoyang city in late August.

"The natural environment here is better than that in my hometown. But the living standard here is very poor," Ding told the Global Times.

The economic disadvantage, however, doesn't seem to have prevented Ding from joining the first 80 households to leave their hometown.

He said the compensation package for resettling includes a one-off 7,400 yuan ($1,088) payment and 1.5 mu of farmland subsidies per person.

Ding declined to offer an exact quantity, only saying that he was paid some 40,000 yuan more for farm and land compensation. "The amount varies according to different conditions of households," Ding said.

Ding and his neighbors in the county had waited for 17 years before the relocation. The growth of Junxian county was practically frozen due to a national order, calling for infrastructure construction in would-be inundated areas to stop.

The order was issued in 1992 after a feasibility study was accepted, the Beijing News reported Tuesday.

There is no supermarket, Internet cafe or even bus station there, the paper said.

"We thought then that we would move soon and didn't expect the wait to last 17 years," Zhang Peihai, a 45-year-old villager in the county, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"I am not a young man any longer and am bad at adapting to a completely different environment," Zhang told the newspaper.

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