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Chongqing to move 400,000 people out of remote areas
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-10 22:10

Chongqing, Southwest China's largest municipality, plans to relocate 400,000 farmers, or 120,000 households under the poverty line, out of impoverished mountain areas in an unprecedented anti-poverty programme.

People who will be relocated mainly fit within the following three categories: those living in high and cold remote mountainous regions with harsh climates and barren land; those households which are far from towns and transportation lines; those living in regions where geological disasters are frequent and diseases often break out.

Located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, Chongqing covers an area of 82,400 square kilometres with a population of 31 million.

For hundreds of years, transportation has remained one of the primary obstacles impeding the development of the region.

Chongqing, which is built on the hilly terrain. Its surrounding regions are full of high mountains, precipitous slopes and deep canyons.

"It will cost a lot for the government to help people in these regions in the traditional way, which usually refers to building roads and providing electricity," Zhang Zhenggang, a Chongqing government official, told China Daily.

"It would be better to relocate them to places with a better natural environment and geological conditions. The cost of relocation may also be very high, but in a long-term view, this way is more economical and is conducive to the sustainable development of the region," he added.

One of the most important industrial bases in Sichuan Province, Chongqing was removed from Sichuan Province in 1997 and promoted to the status of municipality directly under the jurisdiction of the central authorities, like Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.

The 400,000 people will be relocated gradually over different periods. The first three-year phase kicked off this year with 10,000 households planned to be moved by 2006.

The first batch of 3,000 households is expected to be relocated before Spring Festival, which falls on February 8 next year.

Further large-scale relocations may be carried out after the first phase, Zhang said.

The municipal government has founded special funds for the relocation.

"One of the biggest difficulties the migrants are facing is the housing problem. Each household will be given an allowance of 15,000 yuan (US$1,800) to help them settle down in new places," he said.

A total of 150 million yuan (US$18 million) will be needed for the relocation of 10,000 households in the first three years.

Each household will also get at least half a hectare of arable land to help them earn a living in the new places, according to Zhang.

Some villages will be wholly relocated to places in accordance with the arrangement of the local government, usually to suburbs of towns, fertile land at the foot of mountains or around river valleys.

Local governments are required to make full preparations to accept the migrants and to provide fast and preferential service to them. Those who move to towns and have legal residences, steady jobs and income can be registered as permanent urban residents if they choose, and will enjoy the same treatment as urban residents.

Migrants unable to work and without offspring or regular income will be sent to nursing home facilities.

The municipality called for governments at all levels to work together to better serve the migrants in all aspects.

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