A draft plan for the reconstruction of the seat of Beichuan County, the worst hit area in the 8.0-magnitude May 12 southwest China earthquake, is open for public comment, local officials said on Wednesday.
The public consultation period ends in a week.
Workers remove temporary tents in Leigu township, Beichuan country, Sichuan province, on Sunday. The county was devastated in the May 12 earthquake. [Xinhua]
On Dec.1, Beichuan Communist Party and government authorities, acting in conjunction with the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, put up five billboards along a road near Bandengqiao in Anxian County's Anchang Township, which is about 20 km from Qushan Town, the seat of the old Beichuan County government.
The billboards explain general policies regarding the selection of a new site and possible locations, as well as building designs.
The site must meet five requirements: good geographic conditions and distant from fault lines; sufficient usable land; conditions favorable to the expansion of Beichuan; conforming with conditions set for urban area reconstruction of Sichuan Province and Mianyang City, and reflective of residents' opinions.
When contacted by Xinhua on Wednesday, a Mianyang City official who asked not to be identified said public opinion was needed because the draft plan had been drawn up by office-bound professionals, not local residents.
Four townships -- Leigu, which belongs to Beichuan County, and Yong'an, Sanzao and Huangtu, which all belong to neighboring Anxian County -- are possible sites, he said.
"Huangtu township seem to be favored by local governments. Experts have noted that Leigu and Sangzao lie along the fault line, while Leigu and Yong'an lack sufficient land," said the official.
The seat of Beichuan County in Qushan Town was built in 1952. But Qushan lies on the juncture of two fault lines, and the area had many landslides and rock or mud flows before May 12. It was severely damaged in the 8.0-magnitude quake. Officials decided not to rebuild in the area.
One billboard displays the result of a random survey, which found that 95 percent of the respondents favored rebuilding the county seat on a new site and 60 percent said secure geological conditions were most important.
Another billboard shows a satellite image map, with the four possible locations marked.
Under the draft plan, construction will be carried out in three phases. The first includes public welfare facilities, government headquarters and housing. It will cost 19.32 billion yuan (2.84 billion U.S. dollars).
The size of the new county seat will be limited to 10 sq km and the core area will have a population of 61,000, according to the draft plan.
There's some disagreement among local officials over the status of the draft plan. Wang Yuliang, chief of the construction and planning bureau of the Beichuan County Government, told reporters on Tuesday the plan had already been submitted to the State Council, China's cabinet, for approval.
But an unidentified Mianyang city government official disagreed.
"Wang might be referring to the first plan, which was submitted to the State Council but rejected. The current draft plan is the second, and it won't go to the State Council until the comment period ends," the official said.
Li Huagang, who is in charge of supporting reconstruction efforts from Shandong Province, said on Tuesday that the draft plan is expected to be finalized and published next February.
And Li Xiaojiang, the head of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, who is in charge of design work for the project, said construction might start in February if the draft is approved by the government by year-end.
The earthquake, centered in Wenchuan County in Sichuan, left more than 69,000 people dead and 374,000 injured. Another 18,000 are still listed as missing and millions were left homeless.
Beichuan, a mountainous area, is the ancestral home of an ethnic group known as the Qiang, who number 300,000. Their unique culture can be traced to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). They have their own language, food and performing arts, all of which face extinction as their homes were in the worst hit parts of the quake zone.
(Xinhua News Agency December 4, 2008)