A project that will cost nearly 14 billion yuan ($ 2.14 billion) to relocate people from remote mountainous areas in Northwest China has started, a provincial government said.
The relocation project, prompted by health concerns, is targeting residents living in northern Shaanxi’s poverty-stricken Baiyu mountainous areas.
The project will take 10 years to help 392,000 people gain access to a safe water supply, a press officer at Shaanxi provincial office of poverty alleviation and development, said on Monday.
“Some residents will be moved out to nearby villages where there are abundant water sources,” the official, who declined to be named, said. “Some will settle down in cities or relatively developed towns with better educational and living systems.”
Baiyu mountainous areas, located near the border of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, do not provide sufficient supplies of drinking water due to the high altitude, deep ground water and scant rainfall.
People in those areas have long endured surface water with large amounts of fluorine or a salty, bitter taste.
The provincial government once dug wells, set up reservoirs, constructed water cellars and launched a series of projects starting in the 1980s to solve local drinking problems. However, these projects could not help all the people living in those areas, the official said.
The current project will involve eight counties and 90 towns at Yulin and Yan’an cities in Shaanxi province. Some 268,000 people there will be the first to be moved out during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period, the official said.
Ren Chao, an official working for the government in Yulin city, told China Daily that there was not enough drinking water and its quality was poor.
“The plan to move the people, I hope, can provide us with a safer water supply,” Ren said.
“Drinking water that contains excessive amounts of fluorine is harmful to teeth and gradually affects people’s health,” Ma Jun, who leads the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said on Monday.
It is more practical for the government to relocate residents in those poor areas than to use technical means to improve the water quality, Ma said.
“Although the government has begun to move out residents, the biggest difficulty is how to keep improving the standard of living of residents in new areas and establish relevant facilities in time to match the relocation,” Ma said.
“After all, sustainability is the most important thing – not only for the people who move but also for the government,” Ma added.
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