Complaints leak out of China's water diversion project resettlement scheme (2)

13:26, June 01, 2010      

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But for others, it's not just about money.

Wang Li, 30, and her parents are to be moved from Wudang Mountain, a world cultural heritage site and sacred Taoist mountain.

"We love our tranquil life here," Wang said. Her wood-brick house on lower Wudang Mountain is sheltered by tall trees and faces a vast stretch of water.

Taoism is part of Wang's life. She visits the Taoist monasteries and listens to the preaching of monks at least once a week. But she worries most about her parents who have lived on Wudang Mountain for decades.

"My parents are so used to living in harmony and unity with nature, as promoted in Taoist philosophy. I wonder if they can fit into the worldly environment at the resettlement site."

Provincial authorities Monday insisted they were doing their best to accommodate the migrants.

"We do not force the people to move; we persuade them by trying hard to meet their demands and relieve their worries," said Xu Tengfang, a spokesman for Hubei's relocation authorities.

Xu said the migrants, mostly farmers, generally had better and bigger homes, more land, better infrastructure and brighter prospects after relocation.


Hubei Vice Governor Tian Chengzhong said the provincial government would help at least one member of each relocated family to find a job as long as he or she was willing and fit to work.

The families were resettled in more developed areas near cities or roads with better access to jobs, markets, schools and hospitals, he said.

In Hubei, about 180,000 people are to be relocated by 2014 when the water level of Danjiangkou Reservoir and the Hanjiang River, from which water will be diverted, will rise from 157 meters to 170 meters.

About 80,000 people will have to leave their counties, which involves more changes in life, work and environment.

"I can promise that the 80,000 migrants, who have to leave their hometowns, will lead Hubei's 30 million farmers in improving their incomes, living conditions and long-term well-being," Tian said

"We succeeded in persuading the people to relocate by listening to their demands. And that makes the relocation humane," Tian said.

Hubei offered a choice of 519 resettlement sites, enough for 130,000 people, Wang Yuanliang, head of the provincial relocation bureau said. "In principle, they can live where they choose."

A committee of elected representatives voted for the villagers in choosing the sites. Their losses from the relocation were also taken into consideration in arranging the sites, Wang said.

The government invited a member of each family to visit the sites to check the resettlement conditions before making the choice. They also had a say in the size and design of the homes, he said.

The buildings within a site are mostly the same. The designs are collectively decided by the villagers through a vote. Most of the houses are one or two-storey buildings.

In a new resettlement site in Gucheng County, the relocated villagers voted for buildings in a traditional style usually seen in east China's Anhui Province.

"Villagers, not the government, sign contracts with the builders. They are the employers who made the final decision. The government acts as consultant," Wang said.

Members of each family took turns to oversee construction work in makeshift shelters in the sites. The local government provided free meals and accommodation.

The quality of the homes was jointly inspected by provincial, municipal and county authorities. Village representatives were invited to witness the whole inspection process, Wang said.


However, many of their new neighbors say the government is being "way too generous", including a 60-year-old local woman farmer under the alias of Yang Chunhua.

Yang's family of four worked a 0.93-hectare plot before half of it was transferred to the migrants.

The land, which was leased to state-run Zhangluogang commune, was purchased back by the local government at the price of 23,000 yuan every 0.1 hectare, Yang Zhiyong, head of Xiangfan's relocation authorities, said.

"The farmers were not entitled to the payment because they had no rights on the land."

As employees and retirees of the commune, they were duly paid salaries and pensions, and their crops were purchased by the commune at fair prices, local relocation official Li Guangxian said.

From the 0.93-hectare land, Yang Chunhua's family used to earn 1,400 yuan per month. "With that much land, we still could not afford our son's college tuition. How can we live with just 0.47-hectare of land?

"The land is life to us, but it's nothing for the migrants."

Yang Chunhua said the migrants, who came in March, did not like the place and were mostly living elsewhere, leaving the houses and land idle.

"Less than 10 families have resettled in a community of 41 houses. What a waste."

An official with the Xiangfan municipal relocation department said the houses were empty because the migrants had gone back to their old places, which were yet to be submerged, to harvest oranges and other produce.

Most of the houses had no interior decorations or furniture.

Some migrants bought properties near their hometowns and moved back, leaving parts of the resettlement empty, Li Guangxian, the local relocation official said.

Right next to the rows of villa-like empty homes is a two-room unpainted building haphazardly piled up with bricks on a patch of uneven black soil -- home to Yang Chunhua and her husband.

"Everyone cares about the migrants, who cares about us?"

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