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Field Reports
Cover Stories Series 2011> Wenchuan Quake:Three Years Later> Beijing Review Exclusive> Field Reports
UPDATED: May 11, 2011 Web Exclusive
From Rebirth to Revival
The only relocated county in quake-hit Sichuan is ready for a new start after three years of reconstruction

According to Li Xiaojiang, dean of China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, the probability of future geological disasters at the new site is very low. More importantly, ethnic Qiang people had been living there for centuries; the reconstruction in the surrounding areas will help to preserve the Qiang culture.

In February 2009, the Ministry of Civil Affairs approved newly added administrative regions for Beichuan County. President Hu Jintao named the new town Yongchang, which in Chinese means "prosperity forever."

Beichuan is the only relocated county in the quake zone.

Better life for tomorrow

Cheng visits the original Beichuan County seat to honor the memory of his deceased daughter whenever traditional festivals or commemorations occur. However, the place he used to call home was totally unrecognizable, with devastated architecture and fractured roads caused by the 8.0-magnitude quake and mudslides on September 24, 2008.

According to the reconstruction planning, the original Beichuan county seat was turned into a memorial site, which cost 677 million yuan ($1 million). It was opened to the public on May 15, 2010.

"My home was 100 meters away, but I do not want to go back there," Cheng murmured.

On the way back to the new town, Cheng kept silent as he gazed through the van's window. The newly built town is divided by the Anchang River, which flows from northwest to southeast. The area for long-term planning is located on the left side of the river, while residential complexes, business blocks, education and culture institutes, public service areas, and industrial zones are seen on the right side. An ecological corridor was also planned for the riverside, helping regulate the climate.

To facilitate post-quake reconstruction, 18 provinces and municipalities directly under the Central Government in central and east China paired up with 18 quake-hit counties and cities in Sichuan to provide assistance. East China's Shandong Province was assigned to help with Beichuan's reconstruction.

According to Du Hongling, liaison official from Shandong to Beichuan, the reconstruction projects Shangdong was responsible for comprise six categories with 82 projects worth over 4.6 billion yuan ($660 million). It includes residential complexes, public welfare facilities, infrastructure, culture and tourism, landscape and ecology, as well as industrial zones. During the reconstruction, Shandong set up a safety supervision team. So far, all the relocation residential projects were awarded the province's top prize for construction quality.

Moreover, disaster management facilities were integrated with the overall city planning. All buildings are constructed to withstand a quake as strong as category VII on the China Seismic Intensity Scale. In addition, evacuation routes and shelters are combined with public facilities including schools, parks, sports venues and town squares.

On May 12, 2009, the first reconstruction project--the ground-breaking ceremony for Beichuan Middle School was held. On September 25, 2010, the newly built town was transferred to the county government. Local people moved into new houses ahead of the third Chinese New Year after the quake.

"The quality of these projects is our top priority," Du told Beijing Review.

Currently, the new town has functions including housing, medical care, education, business, tourism and leisure. It also showcases a modern county featuring ethnic Qiang characteristics.

In May 2009, Cheng said his hope was to move into the new town as soon as possible, and for his son to grow up healthily. Now, his wishes are coming true.

"We really appreciate what the government has done for us, because we never thought of relocating at the time this tragedy struck," Cheng said emotionally.

"I am looking for a job. To live in the resettlement complex with a job or to live in the new home unemployed, I prefer the latter," Huang said. "The new town is still under construction. I believe our life is getting better."

(Reporting from Beichuan County)

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