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Electricity now lights life in western regions
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-02 01:18

Dui Shanbai, a 60-year-old Kazak herdsman, has gone electric.

He's given up his old oil fires while watching his flock in the pastures of Beitashan in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and is now another Chinese electricity "consumer."

"At last we have it...Now we can watch TV programmes," said Dui Shanbai, imagining his better future.

The Kazak farmer and his family are among more than 600 Kazak herdsmen households who are now beneficiaries of a government programme to provide electricity for township dwellers in seven provinces and autonomous regions in the western part of China.

Statistics show that at the end of 2001, there were about 30 million minority ethnic people in the seven provinces and autonomous regions, including Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai and Xinjiang, who routinely lived in candle or fire light at night due to lack of conventional power coverage.

In Xinjiang, an ethnic population of 300,000 in more than 50 townships have long lived without electricity, using only wood, coal and dried dung as fuel for cooking and warming. The result was devastation of the ecology and underdevelopment of the region.

To provide electricity, the State Development and Reform Commission began a programme to make use of abundant solar, wind and water resources in the region.

With state-of-the-art technologies, it involves construction of solar and wind-driven power stations and small-scale hydropower projects.

Under the programme, a 150-kilowatt solar station, so far the largest of its kind in China, was built in Beitashan, where Dui Shanbai lives.

Prior to the 120-million-yuan (US$14.46 million) project, a similar 100-kilowatt station was launched in Amdo County, Tibet.

Like Dui Shanbai, more than 100,000 Tibetan herdsman are benefiting from the project, with nearly 100 solar stations now operating on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The 60-year-old Tibetan herdsman Goisang says. "In the past we burned butter, but now we fire the Sun."

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