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Saturday, May 20, 2017, 00:06
Renovation program raises living standards in rural areas
By Hou Liqiang and Li Yingqing
Saturday, May 20, 2017, 00:06 By Hou Liqiang and Li Yingqing

Workers build new houses for impoverished families in Xionglumo village, Yunnan province. (Liu Ranyang / China News Service)

More than 1,400 families now have new homes as a result of a policy to rehouse people livingin impoverished areas, as Hou Liqiang and Li Yingqing report from Binchuan county, Yunnanprovince.

Jinhuo Buwei used to dread rainstorms because the water leaked into her house and evenwashed the soil off the interior cob walls, made from a rough mix of water, mud and straw.

"We couldn't sleep, and we had to cover the bedding with plastic sheets so it wouldn't getsoaked. Sometimes, we didn't manage to do it in time," said the 46-year-old from Lijiao village, Binchuan county, in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

As a result of a local government program to renovate dilapidated houses in rural areas, especially those occupied by impoverished families, Jinhuo's family of three no longer has toworry during the monsoon season, which lasts from May to October.

"I never expected my house to be rebuilt so well and with so much natural light because myfamily depends on the dibao (a poverty-alleviation program that guarantees a minimumstandard of living) for our livelihood," said Jinhuo, from the Yi ethnic group.

No member of the family is fit to work: Jinhuo has rheumatism, which makes it difficult for herto walk; her husband was born with a mental impairment; and, at age 67, her mother-in-law istoo old to labor in the fields.

Renovation work on the 60-square-meter house was completed in late September, at a costof 71,000 yuan ($10,300), as part of a government campaign to eradicate poverty by 2020.

In rural Yunnan, people earning 2,800 yuan a year or less are officially designated as living inpoverty.

The family only had to contribute 3,000 yuan of the cost, while the government paid theremainder. Jinhuo also received 2,000 yuan to buy basic necessities so the family could startits new life as soon as possible.

Zhu Lin, a fellow Lijiao resident, lived with his family of six in a house that had cracked andleaning cob walls. His bedroom had no window, so it was just a dark cell.

Jinhuo Buwei sits outside her new home in Binchuan, Yunnan province. (Hou Liqiang / China Daily)

"I wanted to renovate the house, but we didn't have enough money," said the 55-year-oldfarmer, who used to depend on just 2 mu (0.13 hectares) of farmland to make a living.

Zhu received the same benefits as Jinhuo, and also obtained a low-interest loan of 40,000 yuan from the local government. He used the money to buy two oxen for his plowingbusiness, and also rented extra 2 mu of farmland to grow grapes.

During the planting season, he can make 200 to 300 yuan a day plowing fields for hisneighbors. He is hopeful that his investment in land will pay off: "If the price of grapes is goodthis year, I am confident I will rise above the poverty line."

Renovation model

The Binchuan government said the program has seen the homes of 1,443 poverty-strickenfamilies rebuilt.

Last year, local governments renovated or rebuilt the homes of more than 1.5 million families, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Cao Yuanwen, deputy director of housing and urban-rural development in Binchuan, said allthe houses have been renovated to the same standard and design. The process focused onimpoverished families who were unable to rebuild their houses themselves.

He said the government has also been relocating people who live in areas prone to naturaldisasters. Poverty-stricken families can claim a one-time government subsidy of 60,000 yuanto build houses in safer locations, while those in better financial circumstances are eligible fora subsidy of 15,000 yuan. Both groups can obtain a 20-year interest-free loan of 60,000 yuan.

Last year, 1,381 families in the county benefited from the policy.

NBS data show that 2.49 million residents of poverty-stricken regions nationwide are beingrelocated to better-developed areas.

Xionglumo is a mountain-encompassed village in Binchuan, with a population of 1,765. About 27 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. The government's policy has seen 54 families, about 260 people who live in areas prone to landslides, move into new houses insafer areas.

An Yuhua's family of six used to squeeze into a tiny, two-bedroom house. When relativescame to stay, the family had to rely on neighbors to provide lodgings.

"For many years, we longed to relocate to a safe area. However, in 2013, we spent all oursavings and ran up debts of more than 30,000 yuan after my wife was hospitalized for twomonths with a persistent fever caused by a viral infection," the 31-year-old said.

Initially, An was doubtful about the government's financial support, so he declined offers ofhelp. Later he changed his mind, and the family has now moved into a new, four-bedroomhouse.

"The 54 families in the village selected five residents, including me, as representatives tocommunicate with the designers and builders. For people like us, from the Yi ethnic group, it'sessential to have a special place to worship our gods and ancestors. When we communicatedthat to the authorities, the designers changed their blueprints and added a special worshiproom," he said.

"Great changes have happened in my hometown thanks to the government's work. We usedto have to ride 27 kilometers on motorbikes along a rough road to Qiaodian, the nearesttownship, to buy daily necessities. Often when it rained, we were isolated from the outsideworld for many days as it was too dangerous to ride on the muddy road," he added.

"Now the old road has been replaced with a tarmac one, so we can go to the townshipanytime we want. I never dared to think about owning such a good house. We believe ourlives will be much better, thanks to the government's support and our own efforts."

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