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Relocation proves to be a daunting challenge
By Yu Zhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-27 05:30

CHONGQING: Despite the challenges of relocating the 1,700-year-old Dachang Town, the authorities seem intent on restoring its past glory as a tourist "pearl on the Three Gorges" in the new site.

Transplanting the ancient Dachang city inside it would be a particularly daunting prospect given the old town is dotted with big houses built centuries ago.

To start with, a house designated as a cultural heritage building will be photographed and measured to the last detail.

"Then every beam and screw will be numbered and carried to the new site," says Sun Zhengjin, who is in charge of the project.

The final, and most difficult step, is to erect the old houses exactly as they were.

A total of 30 houses, two temples and three stone gates will be moved and rebuilt as in the original layout.

"We plan to display some ancient occupations and techniques in the area, such as wine brewing, oil extraction and cloth dyeing in the area," said Li.

"The ancient city will be promoted as a package with the Lesser Three Gorges so that tourists can experience more variety."

Another attraction will be the drowned old town, which will turn into a big lake of 11.8 square kilometres with the completion of the Three Gorges dam project.

"It will be the largest lake in the Three Gorges area, which can be both a scenic spot and a fishpond," said Li.

However, some local people still have their apprehensions.

"I worry about the future of Lesser Three Gorges, which has drawn fewer visitors in recent years as the water level are increasing," says Zhu Guangjian, who runs a restaurant.

Without a comprehensive plan that includes a series of well-designed projects, it is unlikely that Dachang would see a breakthrough in the development of its tourism industry, he adds.

There are also concerns about the large number of farmers who are going to lose their farmland after relocation.

"The best way is to develop as quickly as possible many tourism-related services which can employ or be run by farmers," Zhu Guangjian says.

Situated to the north of the Lesser Three Gorges, old Dachang used to be a logistics centre in the Wushan area and attracted more than 100,000 visitors a year on average.

The relocation affects a population of more than 23,000, about half of whom have already been moved to Guangdong and Anhui provinces. The rest are expected to be moved into the new town next summer.

(China Daily 05/27/2005 page5)

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