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GUIYANG / BEIJING - The government of Southwest China's Guizhou province is planning to spend 18 billion yuan ($2.85 billion) to relocate 1.5 million people living in mountainous regions in a bid to end chronic poverty there.
Ethnic minorities account for about 39 percent of the province's population, and the province is eight years behind the national average development level, according to official statistics.
Zhao Kezhi, governor of Guizhou, on Monday said in a news conference in Beijing that the local government has initiated a pilot relocation project for the first batch of 100,000 people this year.
"In Guizhou, 1.5 million people live in mountains that barely provide the conditions for sustaining life," said Zhao.
Explaining the necessity of the plan, Zhao said "even if we build roads to reach them, provide drinking water to them and work to alleviate poverty there for another 50 years, the problem still might not be addressed, in my opinion".
He said the relocation plan will take nine years to complete. In order to address complications that will arise when moving farmers from mountains into townships, the project will require massive funding as well as supportive policies that boost jobs.
Per capita GDP of the landlocked and ecologically fragile province was 13,000 yuan in 2010, equivalent to 40 percent of the national average or just 17 percent of that of economically prosperous Shanghai, according to official figures.
More than 30,000 square kilometers of Guizhou's 170,000 square kilometers of territory can be classified as rocky desert terrain, according to official statistics.
Yang Hongmin, a farmer from Jiangman village of Qinglong county, said rainwater has washed away the topsoil of his land, and Yang and other fellow villagers "had no choice but to sell blood to sustain themselves" 10 years ago. The situation at that time was so dire that rice was now only served during celebrations of marriage or new births, Yang said.
"Poverty and underdevelopment are two major problems Guizhou should address to realize common national prosperity," said Du Ying, deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission. China's top economic planner, at the conference.