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Rural highway development tops gov't agenda

By Wang Wenhai | China Daily | Updated: 2007-01-19 07:30

In response to the central government's plan to invest 100 billion yuan in rural highway construction during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), Henan Province decided to seize the opportunity to improve its transportation infrastructure.

Rural highway development tops gov't agenda
A winding highway in Yunchonglu mountain area of Qinyang, Henan Province

As a major agricultural province, Henan is determined to connect each of its villages with cement or asphalt highways by the end of this year, according to the provincial communications bureau.

"We shall spare no efforts to strengthen infrastructure construction in rural areas and achieve the goal of connecting every village with asphalt highways as early as possible," Xu Guangchun, secretary of the Henan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, said at a conference in October last year.


Located in Central China, Henan Province has an area of 167,000 square kilometers and a population of 96.67 million. It contains 18 prefecture-level cities, 157 counties, 2,162 townships and 48,569 villages.

In 2006, the province made remarkable progress in rural highway construction, achieving a good start for the 11th Five-Year Plan.

Last year, the province built or upgraded 31,000 kilometers of rural highway, exceeding the construction target by 63 percent.

With an investment of 6.88 billion yuan, these newly built highways include 15,000 villages in the province's highway network.

Although the province has achieved fruitful results in rural highway construction, there is still a long way to go to achieve the final goal of a developed rural highway network.

Bottlenecks and solutions

The provincial bureau admitted that construction faces problems, such as a shortage of funds, poor road conditions, a lack of bridges and incomplete safety measures.

But despite these problems, the provincial government is determined to overcome difficulty and achieve the goal of "connecting each village with cement/asphalt highways" this year.

To ensure rural highways' quality, the provincial communications bureau required that 80 percent of the projects reach the "Excellent" or "Good" levels.

They also set a clear and strict standard for rural highways. For example, each highway should be at least 3.5 meters wide on the surface and 5.5 meters on the roadbed.

To solve the problem of inadequate maintenance on rural highways, the provincial communications bureau drafted the Regulation on the Reform of Rural Highway Maintenance System, which took effect on November 16 last year.

Now the government is actively promoting the legislation of the province's first rural highway management regulation.

The provincial People's Congress is expected to include the regulation into its legislation plan for 2007.

"A shortage of funds has become the biggest bottleneck for rural highway construction in Henan Province," said Song Huadong, vice-director of the province's highway bureau. "However, where there is a will, there is a way."

Song said local governments at all levels have tried all possible means to collect money for highway construction, in addition to asking for funding from the central government.

At present, funding from the central and provincial governments accounts for 54 percent of the total investment on rural highway construction. Local governments are responsible for the rest of the funding.

To support rural highway construction, many ordinary people have voluntarily made donations to the projects, which would bring welfare to them in turn.

Xinye County, for example, has 220 people each donating more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,250). A farmer named Li Shuanggong, who does business outside the county, donated 370,000 yuan.

A family surnamed Jia in Wuyang County donated more than 2 million yuan to build highways connecting to the door of each household in the village.

"Rural highways are an important part of the highway network and their mileage accounts for more than 80 percent of the province's total," said an official with the provincial communications bureau.

"As a strategic infrastructure for building new countryside, rural highway construction will always receive top priority," he said.

By the end of 2005, all of the province's townships and 63.5 percent of the villages had been connected with cement/asphalt highways.

(China Daily 01/19/2007 page24)

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