Quake victims move into homes Monday, December 14 2009
By Fox Yi Hu in Sichuan
Hundreds of Sichuan peasants whose homes collapsed in the quake last year have moved into new houses built with the help of the South China Morning Post Homes for Hope project.
More than 320 concrete houses, bright as new pins, line a hill in Qingquan (Clear Spring) village, thanks to building materials paid for by the Homes for Hope scheme. Villager Wang Mingzhu, 68, is proud of her new 60 square metre home, where she has lived since August.
"This house is well built and very sturdy," Wang said. "When we lived in Shaba we didn't have money to build such a good structure."
Shaba, one of three villages flattened in the quake, has merged with the other two, Qingquan and Hongyan, to form Qingquan, part of Deyang city near Chengdu. The magnitude 8 quake on May 12 last year killed almost 88,000 people, most of them in Sichuan. It was the most powerful quake to strike China since 1949.
Wang recalled how she had burst into tears when she watched her old house collapse in the quake. Like many fellow villagers, she had lived in makeshift shelters until August.
There are 2,314 people from 980 families in Qingquan village. About 320 families have settled on the reclaimed hill site and others have rebuilt where their old houses fell. Villagers who lived in locations deemed vulnerable to earthquakes have moved to the hill site.
Homes for Hope covered the costs of building materials for almost all the 980 families' new homes.
More than 98 per cent of Qingquan villagers have permanently moved into the new houses, village chief Tan Shaojun said.
There is electricity supply on the hill, but there is a shortage of drinking water because a water-treatment plant is still being built. Li Dajin, 75, who still limps from a foot injury suffered in the quake, is among villagers who have to fetch water from two wells 500 metres away.
Other challenges facing the village included damaged roads and the lack of an irrigation system, Tan said.
"Our infrastructure needs to be improved," she said.
"There's a lack of funds to rebuild irrigation facilities. Some families live away from the roads and face considerable inconvenience."
About 200 kilometres north, infrastructure for a Tibetan village is being built with funds secured by Homes for Hope from the Hong Kong government.
Water supply facilities, sewage tanks and a sewer have been built at the New Shengnan village, where about 90 Tibetan and 30 Han families live near the border with Gansu province .
The new riverside village is in Jiuzhaigou county, where the Jiuzhai Valley scenic area attracts more than two million tourists each year. Three old villages in remote mountainous areas where homes were destroyed have merged to form the new village, which has seen more than 100 new houses erected.
Tibetan villager Shuishengwa (Child of Water), 39, said he liked the new site because it was close to a road, a school and a medical centre being built. "In the old days, we had to carry food and furniture in a 1,500-metre walk from the closest road to home," he said.
A new road runs right beside the village, linking it with the town. "My kids used to spend hours walking 10 kilometres to school, but now the school is just a 30-minute walk away," Shuishengwa added.
Water and sewage-treatment facilities for the village have been built in the first of four phases of a scheme Homes for Hope arranged.
The Hong Kong government will allocate a total of 4.25 million yuan (HK$4.8 million) for the scheme, while another 1.8 million yuan will come from the local government.
The second phase of the scheme will see electricity supply facilities, public toilets, watercourses and a medical centre built. The electricity facilities and toilets are near completion. The third and the fourth phases will see a plaza, a dam and solar converters built.
Chen Hongtao, deputy chief of Jiuzhaigou county, said the lives of the villagers would be profoundly changed for the better as the new location brought about greater educational opportunities for their children.
Caption: Wang Mingzhu, 68, enjoys her new home in Qingquan village, Sichuan province, built with funds from Homes for Hope. Photo: David Wong