Villagers living alongside Bielong River in northeast China's Jilin Province are relieved lot. The riverbank, which has been in ruins for nearly half-a-century, has been converted into a solid flood barrier. They no longer have to worry about their fields getting flooded when the river routinely burst its banks in summer.
This has been made possible by the efforts of an old couple who have rebuilt the riverbank at their own expense.
Fifty-seven-year old Guan Changyuan and his wife Zhang Shuyun have forked out 80,000 yuan ($10,389) in the past two years to build more than 7km of the riverbank on the two tributaries of Bielong River.
According to Li Chunfu, head of Erdao Village, Yongji County, where Guan grew up, the fields and houses were often damaged by floodwaters after heavy summer rains in the past as the riverbank was too old to withstand the flooding.
Though the couple moved away from the village many years ago, the memory of floods destroying his house when Guan was a child, remained etched in his memory.
Handing over the running of his motor garage to friends, he began to build the riverbank in the spring of 2005.
In the past two years, the couple have been up at the crack of dawn, returning home only late at night.
When Guan's daughter passed her post-graduate examination with high marks in 2006, entitling her to a scholarship, he was overjoyed at the prospect of being able to free more money for men and machines to build the bank.
Some 5km of the riverbank, with a height of 8m on average, was completed last November.
Guan offered another 30,000 yuan (US$3,939) for extending the riverbank, and this time the move won the support of local villagers, who chipped in with 28,000 yuan (US$3,677).
The local water conservancy administration department has said the new riverbank is solid enough to cope with the upcoming flood season.
The couple, who are also fostering a boy with cerebral palsy, live a frugal live. Their friends are not surprised by the couple's efforts to build the riverbank saying they always take care of their neighbors, organize trips for the elderly and help children in poverty-stricken families.
The old couple plan to plant fruit trees around the bank, and convert it into an eco-resort for the locals.
"To take care of the bank will be another task for us and we do hope more kind-hearted people will join in," Guan said.
(China Daily July 4, 2007)