Sacrifices redirect water north

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Updated: 2012-09-29

Reporter's Log | Wang Xiaodong

Before I visited the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, what I knew about it was mostly from textbooks and media reports: One of the largest such projects in the world, a construction period of four to five decades, benefiting hundreds of millions of people in the parched north.

After my three-day visit to areas that will make up the central route, I learned about the human sacrifice this task involves.

The Danjiangkou Reservoir, which spans Central China's Henan and Hubei provinces and is the source of the route, will be raised to a capacity of almost 30 billion cubic meters, displacing more than 345,000 residents.

Persuading villagers who have lived in the same place for generations to move to a new place is a tough job. Many people keep orange trees or fish farms, and resettling means they will lose these and have to start again.

Most of my visit to Hubei and Henan was spent on bumpy mountainous roads. It can take several hours by car between a town and a village, so it is easy to imagine how tiring the job is for officials who have to shuffle along these routes every day.

To encourage relocation, authorities have introduced favorable policies, such as building new houses in resettlement areas and selling them at cost, along with creating job opportunities.

At a resettlement area in Junxian township, Hubei, I was surprised to find hundreds of new villas elegantly designed to capture the feel of an ancient town.

New resident Zhou Xing-rong told me the area was built to resemble the style of the towns that would be submerged next year. "The style of the houses is exactly like those I saw when I was a child. It's so familiar," she said.

The new town is equipped with a modern drainage system, a small hospital, a library and a park.

As in other resettlement areas, newcomers may have to look for alternative ways to make money.

Li Longli, an official in Junxian, said the town will try to develop tourism using its surrounding resources, such as the Wudang Mountain.

"But transport needs to be improved," he said.

"I think a road should be built in a year to connect the town with the mountains, otherwise tourists won't want to take the bumpy roads to visit."

Like other officials and migrants we met, Li said he understands the value of the water project and said residents have scarified their interests for the nation.

"In the future, water will rise here," he said, pointing to a tree trunk on a slope. "Please tell people in Beijing they can be assured of clean, clear water to drink in two years," he added.

(China Daily 09/26/2012 page4)

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