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Road Leads Poor Villages to Prosperity
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Sun Xianjiu is a retired primary school teacher living in a remote valley near the Dadu River in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southeast China's Sichuan Province.


His village is at the foot of the Gongga Mountain (7,556 meters above sea level). It boasts an agreeable climate, productive farmland and picturesque forests and glaciers.


In 1935, the Red Army crossed the Dadu River, despite its enemy's fierce firepower, and marched northward by way of the Ganzi area.


But the torrential rivers and steep mountains that once blockaded enemy troops have also served as a barrier to the villagers' communication with the outside world.


Sun said it used to take villagers more than two hours to tramp over hill and dale to neighboring Caoke Township, which was connected to Shimian County by a bumpy mountain road.


"Our village used to have the reputation of being a bachelors' village," Sun said. "Our girls preferred to marry outside while outside girls would not come (to the village) because of our poor standard of living."


Because of the poor condition of the road, the villagers had to use the surplus grains they grew to feed their pigs. But transporting the pigs was a big problem.


Villagers had to carry the pigs on their backs to the township and it was common for them to fall off cliffs or into rivers.


When the rainy season came, floods would damage simple bridges and transport would come to a halt. Villagers usually had to store supplies for half the year.


The 63-year-old retiree was saddened as he recalled that one or two children fell into the rivers and drowned on their way to the primary school in the township nearly every year.


But everything changed when a country highway was built in 2002, connecting Sun's village to the township and the county.


It now takes villagers 10 minutes to arrive at the township by vehicle.


"Nearly every family has a motorcycle and we just bring everything we want right into our homes," Sun said.


"Girls began to come (to the village) and the 'bachelors' village' no longer exists," Sun said with a smile.


Many villagers have become rich through the transportation business. They carry local products, such as traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, to cities and counties and bring back daily necessities.


Sun's family owns three vehicles a Hyundai car and two light trucks.


"My family's car is a fashionable brand," Sun said proudly.


The Tibetan prefecture plans to spend 4.5 billion yuan (US$550 million) on transport infrastructure construction, an increase of 38.2 percent over the past five years.


"The fund on building highways comes from three sources government subsidy, bank loans and a highway maintenance fee," Xie Nengjian, an official with the Sichuan Bureau of Communications, said.


(China Daily August 14, 2006)

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