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Rural Support Scheme Helps Shaanxi Farmers
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With a major relocation program to improve conditions for farmers near completion, Shaanxi Province, in northwest China, has poured in 12.5 million yuan (US$1.54 million) since 2000 to improve homes or help residents move to better areas.


And millions of farmers in the province are set to benefit from better quality water in the coming years.


An improvement scheme will target supplies for 5 million farmers who only have access to water containing high levels of chemicals or pollution.


Measures have already been taken over the past five years to improve general living conditions.


By the end of 2005, some 290,000 households in Ankang region have been enjoying new kitchen stoves which replaced the old ones that caused fluorine and arsenic poisoning, and about 31,000 farmers were moved to better locations, said Han Guoqin, an official with Ankang municipal government.


Currently, there is believed to be about 3 million farmers in the province suffering with endemic diseases, such as iodine-deficiency, and fluorosis-related illnesses.


And there are also 13 million farmers with unsafe or inadequate water supplies, according to Shaanxi Provincial Water Resources Bureau.


"In the following five years, we plan to provide a safe water supply for 5 million out of the 13 million farmers who are drinking contaminated water," said Hong Xiaokang, deputy director of the bureau.


"We plan to supply tap water for 45 percent of the total rural region in Shaanxi."


Yan Shengfa is among the last group set to benefit from the current general improvement measures.


Han revealed: "Yan and some 2,800 other people are the last ones to be moved from the mountainous areas to our newly planned villages, and this work will be complete within 2006."


The 41-year-old farmer lives in Zhusigou Village in Ankang, southern Shaanxi.


He told China Daily that he was due to be moved from his village, which has been suffering from high levels of fluorine.


He said he believed the new settlement would give him a new life.


Yan lives in a small mountainous village with 16 households totaling 108 villagers. They are living a poor life because of adverse natural and geographical conditions, as well as fluorine poisoning.


At present, there is no public transport linking Yan's village with the outside world. And some of them are too sick to work because of endemic diseases.


In 2005, the total annual income of Yan's six-person family was about 5,000 yuan (US$617), which was mainly made by his daughter who was working in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province.


"But we were also helped by the local government, which provided free schooling for our children and paid some medical expenses for me," Yan said.


It is thought there are more than 3 million farmers in the province suffering with iodine deficiencies and fluorosis-related conditions.


(China Daily March 2, 2006)


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