Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

The school of quake reconstruction

By Paul Procee and John Scales (China Daily) Updated: 2011-05-12 07:59

The school of quake reconstruction

A team from the World Bank's Wenchuan Earthquake Reconstruction Project, together with teachers, county officials and a sea of excited schoolchildren, had the honor of attending yet another opening of a school recently. The new school, financed by the World Bank, is in Hui county, Gansu province, and replaced an earthquake-damaged building.

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Nothing about the day the earth shook, shattering lives and buildings three years ago, could be more different from today for the children. Today is a day of remembrance, the third anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake that destroyed large areas of Sichuan province and parts of Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. This is a moment to pause and reflect. But this is also a moment to remember the remarkable resilience of the people in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi and the achievements of earthquake reconstruction efforts.

The achievements in terms of recovery and reconstruction have been remarkable. About 90 percent of the planned reconstruction is complete, and the rest will be completed by September this year. About 1.8 million rural and urban homes have been built. In many towns, basic services such as water and sanitation have not only been restored, but also upgraded, improving the environment and quality of life.

Schools, such as the one in Hui county, and hospitals, built in compliance with the latest earthquake standards, have reopened and damaged enterprises resumed production. Most importantly, economic growth has resumed and life for many has returned to normal.

The Chinese government has made concerted efforts, guided by a comprehensive reconstruction master plan, to reconstruct damaged infrastructure and help rebuild the lives and livelihoods of the quake survivors. As part of the reconstruction efforts, the government launched an innovative and successful program of twinning economically developed provinces and municipalities with severely damaged counties.

This program required provinces not only to allocate 1 percent of their annual budget for three years for reconstruction activities, but also to undertake rebuilding responsibilities themselves. This process bypassed the intermediary bureaucracy and created a healthy competition which rewarded the donor provinces and municipalities that could rebuild fast and adeptly with official recognition.

But challenges remain. It is, therefore, important to ensure that the newly built and better-quality infrastructure will be maintained and operated properly so that they serve the people for years to come.

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