BBC News: China villagers moved to quench the urban thirst

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Hubei Province

When Chinese farmer Ding Guangyan married his fiancee last year, local officials quickly seized on the event’s propaganda value.

Mr Ding had only just arrived in the area after being forced to move with his family to make way for a massive engineering scheme.

In total about 330,000 people are relocating as part of the project, which will eventually see water transferred from the wet south to the dry north, where it is desperately needed.

It is the biggest mass migration in China since the Three Gorges Dam project, under which some 1.5 million people have been relocated.

Publicising Mr Ding’s marriage would show that the recently arrived migrants were already settling into their new lives – so the wedding made the local newspapers.

New homes

But the real story behind the family’s move in Hubei province is more complex; the wedding was good news, but their move has been fraught with difficulties.

In pictures: A step into the unknown

Mr Ding’s family have complaints about the new home, the lack of work and the corruption they claim has become associated with their migration.

The South-to-North Water Diversion Project is a multi-billion dollar national scheme aimed at solving northern China’s chronic water shortages.

A series of canals, pipes and pumping stations are being built along three routes in eastern, central and western China.

As part of the central route, Danjiangkou reservoir, which straddles the provinces of Henan and Hubei, is being expanded.

Tens of thousands of people are currently being moved from around the reservoir because their homes and land will soon be under water.

Ding Guangyan and his family – six people in all – are just one group of people affected by the scheme.

The government gave them compensation, which they used to buy a new house that was built for them, and gave them a small plot of land to farm.

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