2008 China Earthquake: Lixian County Rises From The Ruins In Three Years
With considerable State support, local development has seen a 20-year leap forward.
On May 12, 2008, a deadly earthquake struck most parts of China, killing 69,000 people, with 21,000 others missing. Lixian County in the Southwestern Sichuan Province lost 110 people, 46,000 were affected and 7,322 homes were damaged. Lixian is a mountainous zone located over 2,100 metres above sea level with a population of 900,000 people living in 81 villages. However, the 2008 natural catastrophe turned out to be a blessing of sorts for the county.
According to Wang Shi Wei, Lixian’s Governor, the pace of development has since witnessed a 20-year leap forward. “Some 340 reconstruction projects were carried out worth 9 Billion Yuan Renminbi (or 770 Billion FCFA). The county’s per capita income is now 50,000 Yuan Renminbi (or 4.2 Million FCFA.) Moreover, we have rebuilt and expanded the 180-km tarred highway from Chengdu, the provincial capital, to Za Gunao Town, the Lixian County headquarters. Travel time has been cut by half on this road of which 70 per cent is tunnels,” Wang told Cameroon Tribune on May 26, 2017 in Za Gunao Town.
Tourism, which received between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors a year before 2008, increased by 400 per cent in 2016 to 800,000 visitors. Deputy Governor Liu Xia, who oversees cultural and tourist activities, is also a contented official. Local authorities were able to get an investor to construct the 5-star Ramada Hotel on a remote, but accessible mountainside. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to bring down aboriginal people from dispersed, inaccessible mountain tops to live in organised communities in the valley in order to benefit from the dividends of modern life.
Poverty reduction measures include free education for 15 years for poor families, while those who continue to university receive subsidies. From the 300 Million Yuan Renminbi (or 26 Billion FCFA) allotted for poverty alleviation in 2017, each of the remaining 30 poor villages will get 10 Million Yuan Renminbi (about 856 Million FCFA); while each individual will receive 150,000 Yuan Renminbi (about 13 Million FCFA). This strategy followed a detailed case-by-case survey of the incomes of households and the causes of their poverty. Thus, the aid package is specific for each household and individual.
“Our task in 2017 is to assist 2,080 people from 549 households to get out of poverty. By the end of the year, Lixian County will be left with only 50 households or 163 people living below the poverty line. We intend to eradicate poverty by 2020,” Governor Wang assured.