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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Village rides a wave of change

By Raymond Zhou and Tian Xuefei  (China Daily)

16:59, February 21, 2012

The flooded farmland of Shengli village in Harbin is now a wetland, where reeds and fish are in abundance. People living on its shores make a living by fishing and through its burgeoning tourism industry. Zhao Tianhua / for China Daily

A riverside community has found renewed hope in a rejuvenated ecosystem following the loss of farmland, report Raymond Zhou and Tian Xuefei in Harbin.

When the Songhua River was dammed in 2007 at Dadingzi Mountain, 100 kilometers northeast of Harbin, the water flowing through the city was at a depth of 116 meters, 6 meters higher than during the dry season.

That brought a slew of benefits. Water transportation was guaranteed downstream, a 240-square-kilometer wetland was created and the threat of flooding was greatly minimized.

But drowned out by the cheers was the fact that about 3,300 hectares of farmland was now permanently flooded, affecting four villages.

To add to the misery, this land was not classified as farmland but as a "flood-diversion zone", and thus farmers received scant compensation, just 12 yuan ($2) for every square meter lost.

"That was actually higher than the law stipulated, and the village government sweetened the deal by reversing the original 50-30 distribution deal, which meant the majority of the compensation money went to farmers," said Yang Jiuzhou, chief of Shengli, a village whose name translates as Victory.

Luo Guocheng, a 55-year-old resident, said: "There were protests and pleas to higher authorities in other villages, but ours did not resort to that, partly because of the prestige and decisiveness of our village government."

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