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Xinjiang to Grow Fast
Special> Xinjiang to Grow Fast
UPDATED: June 8, 2009 NO. 23 JUNE 11, 2990
Better Rural Life
Great progress has been made in new countryside construction in Xinjiang

Growing gold

With exceptionally good conditions of sunshine and fertile soil, Xinjiang has great advantages for growing fruit. The grapes in Turpan, walnuts in Hotan, Chinese dates in Hami, pears in Korla, apples in Aksu and pomegranates in Plyaman are famous all over the country and even the world.

But for a long time, most fruit trees grew in courtyards or scattered across land, and specialty fruit production was confined to a self-supporting small-scale peasant economy. According to figures released by the Forestry Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (FDX), in 1978 when China launched the policy of reform and opening-up, only 103,953 hectares of fruit trees were grown in the region.

Over the past three decades, and especially since 1998, Xinjiang has endeavored to establish fruit production bases. FDX figures show that by the end of 2007, fruit tree growing bases in the region covered 866,667 hectares, with annual output of fruit surpassing 4.5 million tons and the annual output value of the fruit industry reaching 11.4 billion yuan ($1.67 billion).

The fruit industry is contributing more and more to farmers' incomes and has become a new economic growth point. According to FDX figures, in 2007, the per-capita annual income of farmers from the fruit industry stood at 450 yuan ($65.89), contributing 14.3 percent to the total per-capita income of farmers. In some areas where the fruit industry developed earlier than others, the income generated has accounted for more than 50 percent of the total income of farmers. For example, in Piyalma Township of Hotan, which mainly produces pomegranates, the growing area of pomegranates has surpassed 2,000 hectares. The per-capita annual income of local farmers has reached 4,847 yuan ($709.66), with the pomegranate industry contributing 3,102 yuan ($454.17), or 63.9 percent.

In addition to expanding the growing acreage of fruits, Xinjiang is also improving growing practices and developing deep processing methods. For example, in Hotan County, Hotan Prefecture, walnut farmers began to develop close planting in 1998 under the guidance of two specialists from the autonomous region's academy of forestry science. According to Hou Jianxin, Party secretary of the county, farmers can now grow 420 walnut trees in each hectare of land, whereas before the number was between 90 and 105. In the meantime, farmers are also intercropping fruits with grain. "Fruit trees can increase farmers' incomes while grain can feed them," said Hou. According to him, besides selling original products, the county is also developing deep processing of walnuts, such as walnut powder, walnut candies, walnut oil and walnut capsules.

Safer houses

At 6:33 a.m. on March 21, 2008, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Hotan. The earthquake was clearly felt in several surrounding counties, but no one died. From February 2005 to October 2008, seven earthquakes of magnitudes from 5.7 to 7.3 shook Xinjiang, but caused no injuries or deaths.

That is thanks to a policy carried out in Xinjiang: In February 2004, Xinjiang began the project of earthquake-resistant houses, with the aim of improving the earthquake-resistant qualities of all the houses in the region by means of reinforcement or reconstruction. Xinjiang is a region with a high incidence of earthquakes, but before 2004, due to economic and technical reasons, most houses in rural areas were unable to withstand them.

According to figures from the Construction Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, by the end of 2008, the region had built or reinforced earthquake-resistant homes for 1.9 million families, of which 1.52 million were in rural areas. A total of 41.2 billion yuan ($6.03 billion) was invested in the project.

When implementing the project, many local governments also promoted new countryside construction in light of local conditions.

In the yard of Iminjan Suti, who lives in Baxguja Village of Lop County, Hotan Prefecture, there is a two-room house that is earthquake-resistant, an independent toilet, an independent shower room and a warm livestock pen for 10 sheep and 20 chickens. Tap water and methane are also available in the yard.

Yang Weifeng, Party secretary of Lop County, summarized the characteristics of new countryside construction in the county: There is asphalt road in every village, houses stand along the road and canals run in front of houses. Every courtyard undergoes the "four conversions," which are converting aqua-privy latrines into flush toilets, switching from firewood to methane, converting livestock pens into warm pens and improving the environment of the courtyard.

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