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Quake-hit village rises anew

Li Yu and Peng Chao in Lushan, Sichuan
Updated: Feb 13,2015 7:55 AM     China Daily

Two children play at a newly constructed residential area of Qinglongchang village of Lushan county in Sichuan province last week.[Photo/Xinhua]

Reconstruction work successfully completed thanks to efforts of dedicated officials

The Lushan quake in 2013 was a double blow for many residents who had also been hit by the Wenchuan quake in 2008. But a spirit of optimism, altruism and integrity helped ensure rapid reconstruction.

“I am going to retire, and it is really comforting to see villagers move into brand-new houses before my retirement,” said 59-year-old Wang Zongyuan, as he stood in front of an area where 81 homes had just been completed.

Wang Zongyuan, one of 20 county-level officials who helped with local reconstruction[Photo/China Daily]

Wang was an official at the discipline inspection commission and supervisory bureau of Lushan county of Ya’an, Sichuan province, before being sent to Qinglongchang village to help with reconstruction five months after an earthquake hit the county.

The 7.0-magnitude Lushan earthquake on April 20, 2013, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and left more than 200 people dead or missing.

Wang was accompanied by 19 other officials from county-level departments who had considerable experience of working in rural areas. They were assigned to help specific areas of Qinglongchang village, the most severely damaged area.

Wang’s responsibility was 155 homes housing 453 people in the village. The quake damaged 124 houses, of which 31 were heavily damaged.

“The situation was bad,” Wang said. “The reconstruction work lagged far behind other stricken areas, and the people didn’t believe in us. They thought we were sent simply to supervise them.”

Wang had three main tasks: inform villagers of the government’s policies for housing reconstruction; organize and help in the reconstruction; and develop the local economy.

Every day at 7:30 am, Wang would take a car from the county town with other colleagues for the 20-minute journey to Qinglongchang village, and spend the day visiting one family after another, explaining the government’s policies and learning about the villagers’ problems.

At the end of each day, Wang would call a meeting with the other 19 officials to discuss the problems they had encountered and to exchange ideas.

The busiest period occurred at the end of 2013 and the start of last year. At that time, Wang was involved in the planning and design of new houses together with the reconstruction committee, a grassroots democratic organization representing the quake-stricken area and whose members were elected by the villagers.

The residential area was chosen by 81 families as the site of their new homes, while others chose to rebuild or repair their houses on the original site.

Wang and the committee had to devise a plan that would satisfy most of the 81 families.

Many days, it was almost midnight by the time he went home. Wang suffers from hypoglycemia, and sometimes his legs would cramp so seriously that he was unable to stand up straight. In order not to worry his family, he would rest in the yard for a while before joining them.

He also suffers from a stomach disorder and rheumatism. At one point, he wrote a request to go back to his original position, but he kept it in his pocket and never submitted it.

“I really can’t leave the villagers and the reconstruction work. I have come here to help, and I need to do something for them,” Wang said.

In the course of helping villagers, he used up nine notebooks and wore out five pairs of shoes and two shoulder bags.

As villagers saw that he was solving problems for them, their attitude toward him changed.

“He is a hardworking man and has covered every inch of our land,” said Ren Xingfen, 55. “After getting to know him, the villagers joked with him and asked him to set up a home here.”

In October, villagers started to move into the new houses. Wang said 30 families in total will have moved into their new homes before the Lunar New Year.

With the houses built, Wang started to think about how to develop the local economy and improve the income of villagers. He discussed the issue with members of the reconstruction committee, and they decided to develop rural tourism.

“The village has a good location where four roads intersect,” Wang said. When the new roads are completed, it will only take 10 minutes to get to the county town, and half an hour to Ya’an.

The village is close to Longmen Karst Cave, a natural scenic spot, and Qinglong Temple’s main hall, a Class A heritage building under State protection that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

In the vicinity of the residential area, plans are progressing to grow some 3.3 hectares of lotus, 6.6 hectares of blueberries, 20 hectares of kiwi fruit and 200 hectares of tea.

On Jan 1, a hotpot restaurant opened. Owner Lin Xianying said she and her husband wouldn’t have to work outside anymore and will focus instead on the restaurant business.

Bai Shiqiang, 28, who runs a small shop, said, “My income has doubled compared with before, as conditions have improved and more people are coming.”

“The quake was a misfortune, but good has come out of misfortune,” Bai added.