Dams and Earthquakes

Opinion, suggestion sought for post-quake rebuilding

China Daily
August 16, 2008

A few days ago, the State Overall Planning for the Post-Wenchuan Earthquake Restoration and Reconstruction (Public Opinion Soliciting Draft) started to solicit opinions from home and abroad. An official was interviewed by the press and answered the questions regarding the public opinion solicitation.

Why are public opinions are solicited from home and abroad?

Being an extremely arduous and complicated systematic project, the post-Wenchuan earthquake restoration and reconstruction is closely connected with the vital interests of the disaster-effected people, concerned about by the Chinese people and receiving great attention from the international community. Deemed as an important basis relied upon by the restoration and reconstruction efforts, the said planning must be in conformity with the actual situation and can meet the needs of the affected population in the quake-hit areas and can earnestly and practically embody the guiding principles of “people first, respect for nature, overall considerations and arrangements and, scientific reconstruction”. Therefore, it was decided by the State Council’s Earthquake Rescue and Relief Headquarters that, the State Overall Planning for the Post-Wenchuan Earthquake Restoration and Reconstruction (Public Opinion Soliciting Draft) shall solicit public opinions from people of all circles at home and abroad, and in particular the broad cadres and masses in the disaster areas, so as to further improve the said planning.

Would you please brief us the compilation process of the planning?

Shortly after the Wenchuan Earthquake occurred, the State Council decided to launch the work of compiling the post-Wenchuan Earthquake restoration and reconstruction planning, and established a special planning group for the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction. NDRC acts as the goup leader unit, co-leader units consist of Sichuan Provincial People’s Government, Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development of the People’s Republic of China (MOHURD), and the group members include: Gansu Provincial People’s Government, Shaanxi People’s Government as well as 38 departments and units of the State Council. Since its founding, the planning group has made dozens of study tours to conduct on-site researches, given audience to the aspirations of the disaster-effected population, acquainted itself with the ideas of the local governments, and heeded the suggestions of experts of all circles. Special columns soliciting restoration and reconstruction advice and suggestions have been created on the NDRC website, People’s Net and China Net for the purpose of heeding public opinions. The approaches such as holding outreach workshops, etc. have also been adopted to learn about and draw lessons from the international best practices on post-disaster restoration and reconstruction. The departments and units concerned and hundreds of experts were organized to have completed, through investigations, researches, evaluations and argumentation, the Evaluation Results on the Scope of the Wenchuan Earthquake-induced Disasters, A Collection and Evaluation Report on the Losses Caused by the Wenchuan Earthquake-induced Disasters, and An Evaluation Report on Resources and Environment Carrying Capacity, on the basis of which the Planning Group gave shape to the State Overall Planning for the Post-Wenchuan Earthquake Restoration and Reconstruction (Public Opinion Soliciting Draft) by conducting repeated researches and discussions and assimilating the main contents of the overall planning of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces, as well as the ten items of special planning co-compiled by the departments concerned and the local governments, covering urban system, rural development, urban-rural housing, infrastructure, public service facilities, productivity distribution and industrial restructuring, market service system, disaster prevention and mitigation, ecological rehabilitation, land utilization, etc.

The Wenchuan Earthquake has swept a wide scope, but why only 51 counties (cities, districts) have been listed? What are the considerations for the restoration and reconstruction of other disaster-affected areas?

The planned scope was determined in accordance with the Evaluation Results on the Scope of the Wenchuan Earthquake-induced Disasters provided, through researches, by the experts of various fields organized by the departments concerned of the State Council. The said extremely destructive earthquake swept a wide scope, involving 237 counties (cities, districts), among which some were inflicted heavy losses, while others suffered less severe ones. Based upon the on-site investigations, scientific evaluation, thorough argumentation as well as the comprehensive disaster evaluation results, 51 counties (cities, districts) have been determined as the extremely hard-hit or hard-hit areas, which had suffered concentrated disasters and grave losses. Hence, the restoration and reconstruction mission is extremely arduous and onerous, and demanding centralized forces to launch key restoration and reconstruction. As for other disaster-affected areas, the restoration and reconstruction efforts shall be taken, organized and implemented in light of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction planning to be organized and compiled by the provincial people’s governments in the quake-hit areas, and such efforts shall be supported by the state through the measures such as financial transfer payment, poverty-alleviation development, etc. Certain policies and measures, such as the government subsidy to the collapsed and damaged housing of the disaster-effected population, shall not be limited to the planned scope.

What life shall the disaster-effected people lead in light of the objectives and tasks prescribed in the planning?

It is put forward in the present planning that, the primary restoration and reconstruction task shall be fulfilled in about 3 years, with the basic living conditions and economic development level reaching or surpassing the pre-disaster level. We shall strive to build a new, secure and harmonious homeland with enjoyable life and work, ecological civilization, and lay a solid foundation for sustainable socioeconomic development. The concrete objectives can be summarized as “housing available for each family, employment secured for each household, living ensured for every individual, together with bettered infrastructure, developed economy and improved ecology”, on the basis of which, we shall continue our arduous struggle to enable the disaster-effected population to work together with all the rest of the Chinese people and enjoy the happy life in our moderately prosperous society.

Why do we divide the reconstruction areas? Can the ecological reconstruction areas be rehabilitated?

The geology and topography vary greatly from one planned area to another, so does their socioeconomic development level. In some areas, e.g. the plains can agglomerate population and economy by large scale, whereas the alpine areas are exposed to relatively great hazard risks and are somewhat unsuitable for large-scale concentration of population or economy. Therefore, in order to earnestly satisfy the demands of rendering respect for nature and launching scientific reconstruction, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), together with other departments concerned, organized relevant experts to have conducted comprehensive and detailed evaluation on the resources and environment carrying capacity. The divisions of the areas suitable for reconstruction, areas suitable for appropriate reconstruction, and ecological reconstruction areas have been put forward on the basis of the aforesaid appraisal, among which the ecological reconstruction areas mainly refer to those areas having rather low resources and environment carrying capacity, rather big disaster risks, important ecological functions, a severe shortage of construction land, as well as an extremely high cost of construction and maintenance of traffic and other infrastructures. Hence, such areas are unsuitable for large-scale population concentration. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we shall undertake no restoration and reconstruction in the ecological reconstruction areas, or all the dwellers have to be evacuated from such areas. Instead, under the precondition of rehabilitating and conserving the ecological functions, rationally dodging disaster and hazard risks and taking the of efficient protection engineering measures, a certain number of villages, residences as well as the corresponding living and production facilities may be rebuilt on their original sites.

What are the considerations for the issue of the restoration and reconsideration of county seats?

Various factors have been taken into comprehensive consideration. The planning has divided the said 51 counties (cities, districts) into 5 categories, i.e. key reconstruction with expanded scale, reconstruction with appropriate expanded scope, on-site reconstruction with readjusted functions, on-site reconstruction with dwindled scope and, new construction in separate locations. The small number of county seats which are extremely severely damaged and impossible to be restored on their original sites need to be relocated for reconstruction. However, as a project of vital and lasting importance, the relocation of county seats must be dealt with great circumspection, and taken into such comprehensive considerations as the actual local geological and topographical conditions, socioeconomic space and public willingness, etc., which is certainly time-consuming. At present, the local governments are wasting no time and working with the departments concerned to fix their attention upon researches and argumentation, heeding opinions and advice, which in turn, shall be integrated into the planning upon confirmation.

What are the main tasks of restoration and reconstruction?

A wide area and a multitude of people have been affected by the said earthquake. Hence, the reconstruction mission is extremely arduous. While considering the planning, we put forward to the principle of “placing people above anything else and giving priority to people’s livelihood”, deem the guarantee of people’s livelihood as the basic starting point of the restoration and reconstruction efforts, give prominence and priority to restoring and reconstructing the urban-rural dwellers’ damaged or destroyed housing, and accelerate the restoration and reconstruction of public facilities and infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, etc. The reconstruction tasks in the main areas put forward by the planning are determined in accordance with the demands of the post-disaster restoration and reconstruction, and in certain fields, in particular, the public services pertinent to people’s livelihood, the infrastructure supporting the long-term sustainable development of the disaster-affected areas, etc., the demands for future development and improvement have also been taken into appropriate consideration.

How shall the 1 trillion yuan funds needed for the restoration and reconstruction campaign be raised?

The restoration and reconsideration project features a wide scope and arduous tasks. The total funds demand is calculated on the basis of the planned objectives and tasks, including urban-rural housing, urban development, rural development, public services, infrastructures, industry reconstruction, disaster prevention and mitigation, eco-environment, spiritual homeland, etc. The said 1 trillion shall be raised through diversified channels. The central finance shall account for part of it and primarily play a guiding role, the rest majority shall be raised by bringing into full play the enthusiasm and through various financing channels, including local finance, counterpart assistance, social financing, capital market financing, domestic bank loans, loans from international organizations, funds owned or raised by urban and rural residents, funds owned or raised by enterprises, etc., so as to ensure the supply of the smooth launching of the drive of restoration and reconstruction.

Categories: Dams and Earthquakes, RIS

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