Relocating to Realize Moderate Prosperity
Gulang County in Wuwei City, Gansu Province is located at the eastern end of the Hexi Corridor in northwest China. With mountains, plains, and deserts each accounting for one-third of its territory, it is one of 23 deeply impoverished counties in the province. The southern part of Gulang County is made up of mountains and valleys with poor transportation and a record of frequent natural disasters. Residents here mostly rely on nature for subsistence and get by on extremely meager incomes.
Li Yinchuan lives in Fumin New Village in Gulang County's Huanghuatan Community for residents relocated from environmentally vulnerable and impoverished areas. Mr. Li is a former resident of the mountainous region of southern Gulang County. He lived in Hengliang Village in Hengliang Township, where harvests failed every nine out of ten years. "Before, we could only rely on nature for subsistence. We planted wheat, peas, and potatoes. If we were lucky, we had enough to eat, but if there was a drought, we went hungry." Mr. Li sighs deeply as he recalls the past. "The road network was poor also. Hengliang is over 40 kilometers from where I live now. It was difficult for my children to get to school or for any of my family to visit a doctor." For Mr. Li and other residents of Hengliang, moving out of their poor dwellings and away from the remote mountains was a deeply felt desire.
When the bugle sounded for China's nationwide battle against poverty, Gulang County drew up and began to implement a project to relocate residents from ecologically vulnerable and impoverished areas to Huanghuatan community through a coordinated approach. Based on the varying natural conditions in southern Gulang County, it was decided to relocate all residents of the townships and villages in the entirely arid mountain region and resettle them in administrative villages in the river valley nearby. All residents living in the three townships of Xinbao, Gancheng, and Hengliang, which were marked by harsh living conditions, vulnerable ecological environments, and frequent natural disasters, were relocated. All residents in 58 administrative villages in 8 townships in the entirely arid mountain region, including Heisongyi Town, Dingning Town, and Gufeng Town, were relocated. A total of 13 centralized resettlement sites were built, including Fukang New Village, Gan'en New Village, Yuanmeng New Village, and Fumin New Village. They have provided housing to 15,300 poor households with a total of 62,400 people from 11 villages in the mountainous area of southern Gulang County.
The project to relocate impoverished people from inhospitable areas has helped the poor residents of Gulang County realize their dream of living in comfort and safety. In 2018, Li Yinchuan's family left behind their dilapidated mud-brick dwelling for an over 90 square-meter tile-roofed house. Today, they have access to running water, heating in winter, and a bathroom with shower facilities. On August 21, 2019, when President Xi Jinping visited Mr. Li's home during an inspection of the Huanghuatan Community, he inquired if Mr. Li was happy about the relocation. "It's truly excellent!" Mr. Li replied.
To ensure that the villages have a completely new look, when formulating the resettlement and construction plan, Gulang County explicitly mandated the provision of a full set of supporting infrastructure, such as water, electricity, roads, gas and Internet connection, and educational, health, and cultural facilities, so as to fully resolve all water, travel, school, and medical treatment problems that had plagued the relocating residents. After much hard work, 50 water storage ponds have been built in Huanghuatan. These have fundamentally solved the problem of supplying irrigation water for production development. Trunk and branch canals, water supply pipes, power supply lines, and paved roads have also been put into service, and all fields and houses are connected to the water, electricity, and road networks. In total, 28 schools of different kinds and 67 medical and health institutions have been built, and all resettled areas are fully equipped with education, medical, cultural, and sports facilities. Today, residents in Huanghuatan enjoy the same basic public services as city dwellers.
Since the launch of the battle to eradicate poverty, Gulang County in Gansu Province has carried out relocations from three townships and dozens of administrative villages in poor and mountainous areas in the southern part of the county, improved public service facilities, vigorously developed specialty industries, and worked hard to ensure that local people are able to live and work in peace and contentment.
Top: A drone photo taken on March 10, 2020 of the grounds of a school in the Huanghuatan Community for people relocated from environmentally vulnerable areas.
Bottom: A photo taken on April 21, 2016 showing the former appearance of a classroom at Wangjiashui Primary School in Xiaoguang Village, Gulang County. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER FAN PEISHEN
"Back in Heisongyi, the biggest difficulty was drinking water. It was a long trek to bring water from the gully up to the cliff and into the house," says elderly resident of Fumin New Village Wang Juying with a deep sigh. "Two years ago, when we moved over here, we were able to use running water. This is something we wouldn't even have dared to dream about before."
Industrial development has helped to eradicate the deep roots of poverty. Based on the natural conditions of the relocation area, Gulang County has supported residents in developing cultivation focusing on fruits and vegetables in solar greenhouses and raising cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigeons in barns, thanks to the Silk Road cold and dry farming program. An office for production development in the relocation area has been opened. Specially appointed scientists, technicians, and agricultural technicians are stationed there all year-round to provide full-process, in-person technical guidance. Through the integration of various types of funds, policies have been introduced to support people facing difficulties to build livestock farms for special breeds and grow specialty crops. Fiscal rewards and subsidies worth 49,800 yuan are available for each solar greenhouse, and these are complemented by industrial loans of 20,000 yuan with full interest discounts for three years. Rewards and subsides of 8,000 yuan are available for each heated livestock barn, with 6,000 yuan being available for between two and four barns per household. Planting bases and breeding communities have all been equipped with water, electricity, and road infrastructure by the government.
Industrial development has created conditions for people to increase their income and wealth. Take Li Yingchuan for example. Before he was forced to leave home and head to the city in order to make a living. But after relocating, Mr. Li was able to build a green-house for growing vegetables and a warm shed for raising livestock thanks to interest discount loans and subsidies by the government. Mr. Li calls his greenhouse a "house of prosperity," as it can create more income than a dozen or 20 mu of land. As long as you are willing to work, life will be prosperous, he says.
Strolling through Huanghuatan, one can see a scattering of farmhouses with grey tiles and white walls, spacious and clean streets, and lush greenery, as well as hospitals, schools, public squares, and all other essential facilities, and the sound of laughter can be heard in the fields. The villagers have moved from a land that could not sustain them into an environment that is now enriching them.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 18, 2020)