PREPARING FOR RECONSTRUCTION: Staff with the Qinghai Provincial Bureau of Surveying and Mapping survey circumstances in Trangu Village on April 27 to prepare for its reconstruction (TAO MING)
HELPING HANDS: Soldiers install satellite TV receivers for earthquake victims in Yushu, Qinghai Province, on April 26
The first phase of earthquake relief, in which rescuing lives was the priority, finished 12 days after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in northwest China's Qinghai Province on April 14, and reconstruction of the area is now ready to begin.
"The focus should now shift from searching for earthquake victims, treating the injured and building temporary shelters, to resettling survivors, restoring social order and carrying out reconstruction," said Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu at a meeting held on April 23.
The devastating earthquake had left 2,220 dead with 70 people still missing, according to the rescue and relief headquarters.
A new phase
During his visits to two severely-hit towns on April 23-24, Hui said that quake-relief work had been remarkably successful, particularly with respect to the search for those buried, the treatment and transfer of the injured and the delivery of basic necessities to survivors.
He also commended efforts to help the resumption of school classes, restore traffic and communications, as well as water and electricity supplies, the assessment of earthquake damage and post-quake reconstruction.
April 24 was the final day for rescuers to comb the quake-hit Yushu region in a bid to find survivors buried under the rubble, while the upcoming new phase would focus on reconstruction, according to Hui.
The timetable and other details for reconstruction projects would be outlined as soon as possible, he said.
Before the release of a comprehensive reconstruction plan, pilot reconstruction is expected to commence in the villages of Trangu and Ganda, near the epicenter of Gyegu Town on May 4, according to the rescue and relief headquarters.
The headquarters also set a target of May 14, a month after the earthquake, to clear the ruins of major buildings such as government offices, schools and hospitals.
"The rescue and relief work has entered a new phase. We have to set clear new targets," Qiang Wei, Secretary of the Qinghai Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.
On April 16, Qinghai Provincial Development and Reform Commission sent related officials and experts to Sichuan Province, where the devastating Wenchuan earthquake occurred two years ago, to learn from their post-quake reconstruction experiences.
During the next two days, experts sent by the relevant government departments and institutions arrived at the earthquake zone, starting the assessment of quake-damage and the geological environment.
A draft reconstruction plan for quake-hit Yushu is currently being formulated, Qiang said.
Luo Huining, Governor of Qinghai, said that all quake-hit regions would be covered by the reconstruction plan, with residential housing, public-service facilities and infrastructure as the main priorities.
The reconstruction would be scientific, fully taking into account the geological, climatic and demographic characteristics of the earthquake zone, Luo said.
The protection of the ecological environment would be given priority in the reconstruction of Yushu, which is the source of China's three major rivers—the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and Lancang River, said Zhao Haoming, Director of the Qinghai Environmental Protection Bureau.
"Yushu is an important natural conservation area in China. During the reconstruction, we will give full consideration to the ecology of the source of the three rivers and its surrounding areas," he said.
Luo said that the quake-devastated Gyegu Town would be rebuilt into a plateau ecological tourist city.
The reconstruction of Yushu also faces major challenges due to its unique geographic conditions, said Zhang Guangrong, Vice Governor of Qinghai, at a press conference in Beijing on April 26.
He said that there were four major difficulties—limited construction time due to extreme weather, which is a characteristic of the area's latitude and altitude; inadequate transport capacity; high construction costs brought about by the need to protect the local environment and unstable power supply.
Yushu lies on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with seven to eight months of winter each year, limiting reconstruction time to about four to five months a year, Zhang said.
"If we have to finish the reconstruction in three years, then the effective construction time is only 14 to 15 months, posing a great challenge to post-quake reconstruction," he said.
In addition to the urgent schedule, transportation is also a source of difficulty, because the prefecture only has two roads connecting it with the outside, Zhang said.
In order to protect the environment in Yushu, few factories of brick and cement were built there, raising construction costs by at least 2 yuan ($0.3) for every brick transported from the outside, Zhang said.