Shuimo Township an "unbelievable" model for post-disaster reconstruction

10:26, April 26, 2011      

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Betty Golen, a travel agency manager from the United States, was utterly astonished when she strolled through a newly rebuilt town which had been ravaged after a devastating earthquake jolted southwest China's Sichuan Province three years ago.

I couldn't believe that this place was really one of the worst-hit areas in the quake, she said after visiting Shuimo Township in Wenchuan County in the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba in Sichuan.

Yingxiu Township of Wenchuan, about 10 km from Shuimo, was the epicenter of the magnitude-8.0 quake that left more than 80,000 people dead or missing.

Golen was among about 600 delegates from 60 countries and regions who participated in the month-long Sichuan International Cultural Tourism Festival, which kicked off earlier this month in Shuimo Township in observance of the third anniversary of the catastrophe, which falls on May 12.

Among the delegates were representatives from the World Tourism Organization (WTO), World Travel and Tourism Council and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). They visited some of the worst-hit regions to learn about reconstruction and tourism recovery after the quake.

In Shuimo Township, visitors can see exquisite tile-roofed wooden buildings featuring a typical style of the local Qiang people as well as stores selling all kinds of Qiang-style handicrafts arrayed along winding stone alleys in the small town.

An official with the organization commission of the tourism festival told Xinhua that after their tour in Shuimo, many delegates saw the town' s achievement in post-quake reconstruction as "unbelievable" and said that it "could hardly be achieved in other countries."

"They were deeply impressed when they saw the pictures of the old and new Shuimo," said the official.

The reconstruction plan of Shuimo Township received the "Global Best Implementation of Post-Disaster Reconstruction" award in the Sixth Global Forum on Human Settlements held at the United Nations headquarters earlier this month.

The plan highlighted ecologically-friendly and low-carbon concepts, as well as reconstruction projects that were well-integrated with people's lives, Dr. Noel Brown, a former United Nations Environment Program official, said at the awards ceremony.

The 2008 quake killed 92 people and seriously damaged buildings and much of the public infrastructure in Shuimo, which had earlier been home to 63 companies that were known for high pollution and excessive energy consumption.

Two years after the quake, all 63 of the companies had been shut down. Shuimo has become an environmentally-friendly tourist attraction showcasing authentic Qiang culture.

The reconstruction was conducted under a plan formulated by the urban design center of the Beijing-based Peking University with the aid of Foshan City in the southern province of Guangdong.

Soon after the disaster, the central government ordered 18 provinces and municipalities to pair up with 18 quake-hit counties and cities in Sichuan to provide reconstruction assistance.

"As of now, a total of 27,564 post-quake reconstruction projects, out of the planned 29,692 projects, have been completed," said Sichuan Vice Governor Wei Hong on April 18, adding that 787.1 billion yuan (about 120 billion U.S. dollars), or 91 percent of the total budget of 865.8 billion yuan, has been spent.

With an investment of 130 million yuan, workers from Foshan built Shuimo into a Qiang-style tourism town that includes 170 residential buildings and accommodates over 300 families.

"I was a farmer before the quake, but now I am a boss," said Yu Pingliang, who runs a two-story teahouse that also provides lodging in the town. "During the Spring Festival holiday this year, I earned more than 10,000 yuan."

Before the 2008 quake, the per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents in Wenchuan County was 9,450 yuan and 2,790 yuan. In 2010, those numbers climbed to 12,780 yuan and 3,330 yuan respectively, according to county government data.

"After my on-location investigation in Wenchuan and Beichuan, I saw sweeping changes in infrastructure and tourism development of the quake-hit regions," said Zoltan Somogyi, executive director of the WTO, adding that although it was his first visit to these places, he saw videos and pictures showing the ravaged counties.

Sichuan's successful experience in post-disaster reconstruction should certainly be shared with the world, he said.

Sichuan's people set a model for us, as they actively rebuilt their hometowns and turned over a new leaf, said John Marian Koldowski, deputy CEO of PATA.

Currently, Shuimo Township receives up to 20,000 visitors every day.

Source: Xinhua
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