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December 9, 2009

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Relocated villagers start anew

MORE than 760 residents of Junxian County in the Danjiangkou reservoir area yesterday began new lives.

The residents were relocated to a new community about 300 kilometers from Junxian in Hubei Province to make way for the massive south-to-north water diversion project.

They were among 330,000 people expected to be relocated by 2014 for the multimillion-dollar project, which will channel water from southern regions, mainly the Yangtze River, to the arid north, including Beijing.

On the border of Hubei and Henan provinces, the Danjiangkou reservoir is the water source for the central route of the project.

Since the 1990s, farmers in the area have been expecting to move for the project, which will raise the dam level from 157 meters above sea level to 176 meters. The reservoir will store water for Henan and Hebei provinces as well as Beijing and Tianjin. Construction of new houses, roads and power grids have been suspended since then.

For almost 20 years, their lives have been on hold as the scheduled completion of the project moved from 2008 to 2010 and now 2014.

"My kitchen collapsed six years ago," said Li Yuanchun, 51, a resident of Wugumiao Village, Danjiangkou. "But I never built a new one as the government would not compensate me for new buildings."

Li and 29 other households in the village were scheduled to move to Shayang County, about 300 kilometers away, next year.

The water diversion project has had unintended consequences for the community.

Young men have found it nearly impossible to get married as women from other townships were reluctant to accept the village's poor homes and uncertain future.

The villagers have a deep emotional attachment to their homes. When the Danjiangkou dam was built 50 years ago, tens of thousands of villagers had to move, said Liu Jiashun, head of Danjiangkou resettlement bureau.

"Now they must prepare to move again. They fear more suffering."

Danjiangkou City has almost 100,000 people to be moved by 2014. The first group was relocated on August 20 this year.


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