New homes in quake-hit Sichuan may become financial burden to residents
- POSTED: 12 Dec 2013 14:56
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To minimise future damage in the quake-prone zone in China's Sichuan province, the government is building new stronger homes for the survivors. But the safer houses could potentially become a financial burden for some of the poorer villagers.
SICHUAN: Villagers in China's Sichuan province were the worst-hit in this year's 7.0-magnitude earthquake which destroyed over 21,000 homes.
To minimise future damage in the quake-prone zone, the government is building new stronger homes for the survivors.
But the safer houses could potentially become a financial burden for some of the poorer villagers.
Construction of new homes has begun in Sichuan, six months after the earthquake devastated the region in April.
The new houses, which are to be completed by the end of next year, are expected to withstand future shocks in the quake-prone zone.
The houses are safer, but also cost more to build, at US$165 per square metre - 5 percent higher than average homes elsewhere.
Kester Yim, managing director at Habitat for Humanity, said: "It's a mountainous area to start with. It's not really an urban area. It's a rural area so the soil is basically softer, so we have to do a lot of reinforcement of the land, especially with the foundations. So it takes a little bit more work."
36-year-old Li Huilian, one of the 130 families getting a new home by end next year, is worried she cannot afford to move in.
Even with government subsidies covering half of construction costs, Li said they will have to pay at least US$9,000 for the new home.
Her family of four survives on just US$3,000 a year, provided by Li's husband, who works in Zhejiang as a labourer.
To supplement the family's income, Li's son had recently decided to drop out of school to work.
Li said: "My son had just graduated from junior high and is already working now because of our current family situation. He's been out working for a month. He needs to survive and has to work from young, we've got no choice. Our relatives also face the same problem so we can't borrow from them. If the house is ready earlier, we'll have to get a loan."
Selected villagers get extra help through private donations from Habitat for Humanity and Singapore's CapitaLand Hope Foundation, which put in US$80,000 for the rebuilding project.
Farmers who leave their damaged homes and return the land to the government get compensated about US$50 per square metre.
The farmers retain rights to the plot and may get income from it in the future when it gets rented out for tourism or agricultural purposes.
This is part of the government’s long-term plan to redevelop the quake-stricken region, which also happens to be home to a scenic hilly region popular amongst Chinese tourists.
Foong Siew-Tong, volunteer at CapitaLand Hope Foundation, said: "This village, they're into B&B - bed and breakfast. The new vision for this village is they can be self-sustainable. Besides farming they can develop eco-tourism which I think would be quite wonderful, looking at the surroundings, the mountains and the hills."