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WB Urged to Aid Anti-poverty Projects in Western China
Several Chinese lawmakers from the western part of China Wednesday called on the World Bank to reconsider its decision on lending to an anti-poverty project in western China.

The lawmakers gathering here for the annual session of the country's top legislature said World Bank loans can help facilitate poverty reduction in western China.

Gao Yonghong, a lawmaker of the Mongolian ethnic group from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, said, "We still regret that the World Bank canceled its plan of lending to an anti-poverty project in Qinghai two years ago, which came as bad news for local people."

This year China started the project, known as "Xiangride-Barun Poverty Reduction Development Project," with a total investment of 660 million yuan of Chinese government funding, and aims to relocate over 20,000 residents in infertile areas in Qinghai on voluntary basis.

The Chinese government originally planned to use a World Bank loan to fund the project, but due to pressure from some Westerners, the bank did not approve the plan to grant loans to the program.

Gao said the Westerners affected the decision-making process at the World Bank by accusing the program of having a potential to alter the ethnic proportion in the area. The project designed to help 57,000 poor people was thus suspended.

Gao, former head of Haixi prefecture of western China's Qinghai Province, said some mountainous areas in western China are not suitable for people to live in due to extremely harsh natural conditions.

He explained that because of arid soil and climate, the only way to get the poor people out of poverty is to relocate them to Haixi prefecture, providing them with idle farmland on farms in the Qaidam Basin.

The resettlement areas boasts better natural conditions, such as fertile soil, sufficient sunshine and other resources.

The resettlement program will not result in ecological disaster since it does not involve land reclamation, and there is no " reform-through-labor" farm in the planned area, he added.

Gao said some poor peasants got rich after they relocated a decade ago to the area, on voluntary basis, with better natural conditions.

Gonpo dangzhou, a Tibetan peasant, chose to relocate to Xinglong Village in Barun Township in Qaidam basin from Minhe County in eastern Qinghai about a decade ago.

Gonpo was so poor that the only assets of his family were several quilts when he left for Xinglong village. His family now makes 20,000 yuan a year in the new location.

There are nearly 100,000 people like Gonpo who have relocated in Haixi prefecture, and have greatly improved their living standards, Gao said.

Another NPC deputy, Han Shangwen of the Sala ethnic group, said nearly 400,000 people in eastern part of Qinghai lives in poverty because of unfavorable natural conditions, and they are all willing to relocate to Haixi for better life.

Zhao Leji, governor of Qinghai and an NPC deputy, said the poverty reduction projects in Qinghai are part of the country's overall program to eliminate poverty.

"We respect the life styles and religious beliefs of those resettled people of several ethnic groups," said the governor.

"People with same religious affiliation are encouraged to live in same areas," the governor said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2002)

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