Inner Mongolia desertification leads to large-scale relocation

Hohhot, 19 July: As many as 200,000 farmers and herdsmen living in the barren areas of North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region will be relocated.

Hao Yidong, vice-chairman of the autonomous region, made the announcement at a working conference held recently in Hohhot, capital of Inner Mongolia.

"They have to move to other places," said Hao, stressing "it is the only way to get rid of poverty without harming the environment. "

During the past seven years, the living conditions for a total of 2.7 million people in the region have been greatly improved under the assistance of local governments, sources said.

However, there are still about 200,000 people living in the areas with unsound environments, where drought and desertification have seriously threatened their life.

They have to continue exploiting the very limited natural resources in order to make a living, which in turn has further deteriorated the environment there.

The programme has received support from a majority of the population, and about 7,000 people moved to fertile land and established their new homes last year, officials said.

"Even if the government does not launch the programme, we ourselves will still try to find a better place," Huang Guangyuan, a villager from the county of Duolun, told a reporter.

"There is nothing else here except sand," he complained, pointing to the house he abandoned, which has been half buried by yellow sand.

Located on the verge of a large-area sand land, his village has almost been destroyed by years of rampant sandstorms.

Not long ago, Huang, together with another 20 households in his village, moved to their new homes on the outskirts of the town.

The government has not only invested in building new houses for the villagers, but also allocated sufficient arable land for them to grow vegetables, according to sources.

Most of the people are supposed to move only within their own prefecture or league (a prefectural level administrative unit), and the programme will be conducted on a voluntary basis, officials said.

(*) Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

Source: Xinhua news agency, Beijing, 19 Jul 01