Reconstruction Plan for Quake-Hit Wenchuan County

July 15, 2008 Updated: July 16, 2008

Two months after the May 12 earthquake, tens of thousands of earthquake victims in Wenchuan County are still waiting for a resolution of whether to reconstruct Wenchuan in a new safer site while taking shelter in tents during the summer months.

Since the earthquake struck, killing 15,941 and leaving 7,662 missing and 34,583 injured in Wenchuan, Aba Prefecture of Sichuan Province, the county alone experienced nearly 5,000 secondary geological disasters, including hundreds of major landslides and mudslides.

According to Reuters, Authorities in Aba had moved more than 70,000 Wenchuan residents living in “highly dangerous terrain” to safer areas last month to avoid further casualties from landslides and other disasters during the country’s deadly flood season.

Wenchuan, a quake-devastated county with a large population from the Qiang ethnic group, faces relocation.

On July 10, when the Wenchuan Deputy Chief Wu Guangxu was asked when there would be a firm decision being made on whether to rebuild Wenchuan in another place, he answered, “Our county doesn’t have the right to make that decision.”

Yin Zhi, Vice Dean of the School of Architecture at Qinghua University and a member  of an expert panel stationed in the quake zone led by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, on June 16, released an investigative report, concluding that Wenchuan County is no longer suitable for people to live in. In the report, he suggested that Wenchuan should be rebuilt in new safer areas.

As a result of Yin’s suggestion, the urban planning department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has made a decision to rebuild Wenchuan in a different place within Wenchuan’s administrative region. This reconstruction plan has also been approved by the expert panel on July 9.

“This is the result of compromise.” Yin said.

However, according to Yin, choosing a new site is a nearly impossible task. Because a new Wenchuan will not be built at the former location, a new site needs to be surveyed somewhere within Wenchuan. Experts have calculated and found that the current areas within Wenchuan which are suitable for human living can only support around 10,000 people. With the total population of more than 80,000 in Wenchuan at present, the total relocation cannot be avoided at this point.

Living in Dense Tent Camps

There is a large group of tents near Banqiao Village in Wenchuan’s Mianchi Township. Space between the tents is only 10 centimeters (about 4 inches), and even some have no space.

Sometime around July 5, tap water was finally connected to the tent camps. Thus each village has a water intake site for people to retrieve water. Prior to this, several thousand people had to travel up to a mile and wait in line for water.

Currently, there is still no regular electricity there. Every night, the loud noise of diesel generators can be heard in the tent camps just to keep a few street lights going.

A few days ago, some people started having diarrhea. An epidemic prevention worker said preventing epidemics is very difficult in such largely dense areas of human living space.

Nobody knows how long they have to stay there and endure all of this.