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Resettlers Have Say in Choosing Destinations

With a smile on her face, 38-year-old Zheng Yingzhi watched her daughter hanging self-made sausages under the roof. Several yards away, the foundation has already been laid on her two-story house.

Not satisfied with the soil quality in the village suggested by the local government, Zheng, a Three Gorges Dam resettler, has moved three times before settling down in Xiaoting village.

She chose the village as it is near a port and the land is suitable for growing citrus.

Approximately 300,000 residents in central and western China’s Chongqing Municipality and Hubei Province have resettled to clear the way for the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydraulic project in the world. The figure will rise to 1.13 million upon completion of the project in 2009.

The majority of resettlers were satisfied with the venue suggested by local government, while one third chose their new homes elsewhere.

“It is of tremendous difficulty to meet the demands of a million resettlers,” said Li Degang, director of the Yichang Resettlement Bureau. “But the government has done utmost to satisfy their expectations.”

“We’ve been allotted 0.26 hectare of citrus land. We plan to open a small roadside grocery store and in leisure time go to the port to make money,” said Zheng.

For the resettlers, choosing a place for resettlement is an important decision.

Soil condition, transportation and education facilities for children are three major concerns in choosing a new home.

The Chinese government has mapped out a detailed plan on resettlement, but it is upon the resettlers’ own decision as to where to settle down. Liu Fuyin, a senior official in Chongqing Municipality, said that grassroots bureaus can adjust resettlement plans “within reasonable ranges.”

Chongqing, the youngest municipality of China, accounts for 85 percent of the total Three Gorges resettlement population.

The Chinese government encourages resettlers to go on government-sponsored trips and have a closer look at the suggested destinations.

Ye Yuangen, a 54-year-old villager in Fengjie county of Chongqing, was nervously waiting by the public phone to hear from his son, who had gone with some twenty family representatives in his village to Dongtai, in east China’s Jiangsu province, for a preview of the area. The county will be inundated completely by the end of the second-phase of the Three Gorges project in 2002.

“My son phoned me that conditions there are very good, and we can enjoy tax rebates for farming and also favorable conditions for doing business,” the father was considering registering for relocation as soon as his son returns.

In Fengjie, more than 1,000 people participated in such previews last year, 20 percent of whom ended up without finding satisfactory destinations and were therefore resettled in other ways,” said Sun Kaiwu, director of the Fengjie Resettlement Bureau, who sent the first group of people in the dam area to the wealthy Zhejiang province in east China.

Usually, three choices are open to resettlers: moving to a higher place not far from their old homes, to somewhere else in the county, or to other parts of the country. Resettlers are also encouraged to contact their relatives and friends anywhere in the country and live with them.

No matter which resettlement mode was chosen, the Chinese government promised to ensure resettlers with “a living standard not lower than before.”

Yi shouping in Yunyang county chose to move to the north, but found himself unaccustomed to the dry climate there.

He returned, and the government okayed his second choice. Now he settled in a neighboring county and decided to move there next year after having harvested crops.

Year 2002 is the deadline for the second-phase resettlement. Resettlers can choose to move at anytime before the deadline.

Senior officials in charge of the Three Gorges resettlement said that “the resettlement is progressing smoothly, and that the resettlers are in a stable mood, and that all resettlement is carried out on a voluntary base.”

With a total investment of 40 billion yuan (US$4.8 billion), the resettlement is deemed as key to the overall success of the Three Gorges Project.

As the Spring Festival approaches, the resettlers will start a new life in a new place. Zheng’s fellow villagers pooled 5,00 yuan and bought her a pig for the festival. “Everything will get better, I believe,” she said.

(Xinhua 01/15/2001)

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