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Uncertainty over best plan for Wenchuan
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Students from Leiguzhen primary school in Beichuan county, one of the areas hit hardest by the May 12 earthquake, say goodbye to their teacher at Jinan railway station in Shandong province on Monday. The students were sent to school in the city last month, and are now returning to their hometown, where damaged classrooms have been restored.

Authorities are still considering whether the total relocation of Wenchuan county, the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake, is the most appropriate course of action, a housing ministry official said yesterday.

Tang Kai, director of the urban planning department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said a shortage of land in the quake-devastated county is the major difficulty in choosing a new site.

Situated deep in mountains with the Minjiang River running through it, Wenchuan has never been rich in good quality land, and much of the farmland was on mountainsides, he said.

"The density of construction is already very high in the region following its rapid development over recent years," Tang said.

"Also, deciding where people will live is not something to be taken lightly," he said.

Rebuilding within Wenchuan is not the only option, however, Tang said.

"We have to be aware of the threat of secondary disasters to people in temporary accommodation," Tang said, adding that a partial evacuation is also being discussed.

"Some hydropower stations and mining industries deep in mountains that were destroyed by the earthquake, might be moved out of the county," Tang said.

Meanwhile, Wang Ning deputy head of Sichuan, said at yesterday's briefing that despite the devastation caused by the earthquake, the investment environment in the province is still good.

"Although the earthquake caused huge losses, the condition of Sichuan's reserves of natural resources, its productivity and industrial foundations were not severely affected," he said, adding that the provincial government has been encouraging firms to resume production as soon as possible.

"We have offered financial help to companies affected by the quake," he said.

More than 900 of the 1,096 firms affected have resumed production, Wang said.

Also, provincial authorities will begin construction this year on three new rail lines - two intercity services between Chengdu and Dujiangyan, and Mianyang and Leshan (via Chengdu), and a long distance line between Chengdu and Lanzhou.

"So Sichuan remains an attractive place for business and investment," Wang said.

(China Daily July 9, 2008)

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