Mountainous county in E China lifts residents out of poverty by improving infrastructure and developing characteristic industries

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By Xu Jing, People’s Daily

By continuously improving infrastructure, building resettlement sites, and developing industries suited to local conditions, Taihu county, Anqing, east China’s Anhui province, has lifted 122,000 villagers from 35,900 impoverished households in 67 poor villages out of poverty.

From 2014 to 2019, the county, which was once one of the key counties for national development-oriented poverty alleviation work in China and a mountainous county suffering from extreme poverty, increased the per capita disposable income of farmers from 8,010 yuan (about $1,240.75) to 12,727 yuan, with an average annual growth of 9.7 percent.

Taihu county had long been troubled by poor transportation conditions, as it has a great number of mountains and interlaced rivers and lakes, but the number of its roads and bridges was far from enough.

Since 2014, the county has made great efforts to improve its transportation infrastructure. It has built 2,586 kilometers of roads and constructed or renovated 138 dangerous bridges, ensuring that each of the relatively large natural villages in registered poor administrative villages has a hardened road with a pavement width of no less than 3.5 meters.

To further improve the infrastructure in poor areas, especially mountainous areas, the county treated 80.27 kilometers of small and medium-sized rivers, reinforced 33 small reservoirs, transformed 70,000 mu (about 46.7 square kilometers) of small and medium-sized irrigated areas, and improved 84,500 mu of irrigated areas through a program launched to promote small facilities for water conservancy, laying a solid foundation for industrial development.

During China’s 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), Taihu county relocated a total of 6,298 residents from 1,820 households living in inhospitable areas in an effort to help them get rid of poverty. All the relocated residents have moved into their new homes in 59 resettlement sites on schedule.

“I don’t have to worry about sending my granddaughter to school or taking my family to the hospital anymore,” said Xu Wenling, a resident in Liangting village of Taihu county.

Xu’s family used to be an impoverished household, while now the family has a big house with four bedrooms in a resettlement site with three tall buildings, a clean cultural square, as well as a kindergarten and a clinic located 300 meters from their home. Besides, the new resettlement site has also been equipped with other facilities like gas station and supermarket.

Xu still feels the life she has now is like a dream every time she thinks of her old house with only two rooms in the mountains.

Just several years ago, Xu was basically supporting the whole family on her own, as her husband suffered from rheumatism and couldn’t handle heavy physical labour, her son and daughter-in-law were both troubled by chronic diseases, and her daughter was away from home pursuing her studies.

As Liangting village was surrounded by mountains, Xu had to walk two and a half hours every day to send her granddaughter to a kindergarten. Eventually, the family had no other choice but to rent a house at the foot of the mountains.

Liangting village was highly vulnerable to geological disasters, and it was difficult for some villagers, who lived in houses scattered in the mountains, to live a normal life, recalled Yang Yongfeng, Party secretary of the village.

Fortunately, in 2017, the local government decided to relocate poor residents in Liangting village to help them shake off poverty.

After helping poor residents move to new houses, the village has also tried to improve the living conditions and increase the income of villagers by improving the infrastructure of the locality and building an industrial park to enable residents to work near home.

Xu’s daughter, who had worked in several cities after graduation, returned to her hometown in 2018 when she heard that the industrial park near her new home was hiring. She has secured a job in a food factory in the industrial park.

In fact, more and more people like Xu’s daughter have returned to their hometown to work in the industrial park in Liangting village.

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