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Urban relocation best for rural quake victims
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Policies should be devised to help resettle millions of earthquake-hit residents from rural areas to cities, a senior official said yesterday.

Creating employment in urban areas is an effective way of successfully relocating rural quake victims, said Liu Shijing, vice-director of the Development and Research Center under the State Council.

The earthquake has directly affected more than 10 million people, leaving many of them homeless after their cities, towns and villages were reduced to rubble. Thousands of makeshift houses have since been constructed.

"Given the limited resources in the disaster-hit region, the relocation and employment for those local rural residents will be tedious. Yet it will be easier if they are located into other cities nationwide," Liu told a forum in Beijing on disaster prevention and aftermath relocation.

Under Liu's plan, 40 percent of the 2 million rural residents from the seven worst hit counties, including Wenchuan, Beichuan and Shifang, could be resettled into urban areas across China. A similar proportion of people from the province's countryside have worked as immigrant workers across China in recent years.

"If each of the workers could bring with them one or two relatives, then half of the total 2.8 million population could be properly accommodated," said Liu.

While stressing that the relocation into urban areas will accelerate nationwide urbanization, Liu called for institutionalized policies to afford the displaced the same opportunities and social welfare, including education and medical, as their urban counterparts.

Liu also said relocation to another city was more economical than rebuilding the original site. "Relocation of a single person within their devastated hometown will take the central budget 70,000 yuan ($10,000) in the badly hit counties and cities, but relocation elsewhere will only take 30,000 yuan," Liu estimates.

Liu said that relocation to another city would only require the central budget to initially stump up the cost of a low-rent house or mortgage payment, with employment opportunities in urban areas helping victims to quickly get back on their feet.

(China Daily July 7, 2008)

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