(China Daily 03/19/2012 page22)
The large-scale relocation of residents to make way for the construction of hydroelectric power stations creates challenges that Huaneng Group, one of China's top generation companies, is seeking to solve while also helping to improve the lives of those forced to move.
A newly built village for the settlement of immigrants from Gongguoqiao county, Yunnan province. They were moved to make way for the construction of a hydroelectric power station. Provided to China Daily
During the development programs in Southwest China, Huaneng found ways to successfully transplant villagers as well as to enhance transportation and education in the affected areas.
"Our bright, big new room is much better than the previous blockhouse in the deep mountains," said Zeng Chuanxiao, 57, a villager who moved to a new apartment with his family in 2009 when a hydroelectric power station was built in his former village - Gongguoqiao county in Yunnan province.
He said the local government subsidy of 300,000 yuan was enough to rebuild new apartments for the immigrants.
"Our old house was in an area where there were frequent landslides," said Zeng. "We used to worry a lot when it rained heavily. Now we don't need to worry any more and the living conditions are much better than before."
It is difficult to find Zeng's hometown on a map of China because it is so remote. It is an hour's flight from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, and then a three-hour drive.
The deputy chief of the local immigrants' office, Yang Libiao, said after the relocation they will start providing training programs for the incomers.
"They can learn some skills and stay to make a living or go out to make money in cities," he said. "They can choose."
Up to 140,000 people have to move during the construction of hydroelectric power stations on Lancang River in Yunnan province.
Huaneng Group, which also has hydropower stations on Lancang River, started a program to build schools, clinics and send local teachers to cities to receive training in 2006.
"We sponsored students in the relocation areas to finish their high school education and vocational schools," said Wang Yongxiang, president of Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Co. "Also, we helped the local government to improve roads and medical services."
By the end of 2011, the company said it had spent 72 million yuan ($11.43 million) on a program to build 60 schools and the sponsoring of 1,400 rural teachers and doctors to undergo professional training and also on the provision of training programs for farmers.
The company has sent 75 rural teachers to Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and Xi'an for professional training. Each of the teachers receives 1,500 yuan from the program.
"I never thought that I would go to a place further than Dai autonomous prefecture in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan," said a teacher who returned from Shanghai after being on a training program. "I learned a lot from the course in Shanghai. Their teaching concepts and methods are much more advanced than ours."
Lancang River Hydropower Company also encourages their employees to personally help students with financial difficulties. In the past five years, they helped 1,398 students in total. Each employee who joined the program sponsored one student to finish his or her current schooling. If they want to pursue higher education, the company will pay for them.
In order to provide the students with a better environment in which to study, the company spent 467,000 yuan buying computers, desks, books, learning materials and TV stations for the schools. The money also helped to provide necessary facilities for the clinics.
Every Children's Day on June 1, the employees of the hydropower station company visit the schools and buy students school bags, pens, basketballs and candy to bring them happiness and hope.
Cao Peixi, chairman of Huaneng Group, said from this year, the company will start a new round of a program to help local development in Yunnan province. It will focus on living standards, the protection of national culture and the conservation of the ecology.
Jinghong hydroelectric power station, owned by Huaneng Group, has already proposed a plan to invest 2.7 million yuan to establish a rural ethnic museum in Xishuangbanna as a part of the program.