Source: China State Council Information Office 2
Carrying pots, pans and other daily necessities, 35-year-old Fu Yongzheng and his wife arrived at their new home after a more than three-hour motorcycle ride cruising through the winding mountainous roads.
They will start a new life in the resettlement community, built to house villagers relocating from what will become the Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park in China’s island province of Hainan.
“It’s a bit hard for me to leave the mountain since I’ve always been living there, but the excitement overwhelmed the reluctance,” said Fu, a resident of Gaofeng Village in Nankai Township, Baisha Li Autonomous County.
Fu is among the 498 people in 118 families who became the first group of ecological immigrants from the country’s first rainforest national park in the making.
The park, home to China’s largest expanses of primeval rainforest, covers nine cities and counties, with a total area of 4,400 square km, or about one-seventh of Hainan Island’s land area. Gaofeng Village is located in the core area of the park.
“If the villagers continue to live in the core area, they will inevitably cause damage to the ecological environment, which runs contrary to the objectives of building the park. Ecological relocation, therefore, is the best solution to this problem,” said Fu Zhiming, head of the Gaofeng Village.
According to official figures, Hainan’s tropical rainforest, home to many rare and endangered species, including Hainan gibbons, has increased by about 200,000 hectares in the past 20 years thanks to enhanced protection and anti-poverty campaigns that wean villagers off illegal lumbering and burning for hunting.
The relocation is part of the poverty alleviation drive, answering many villagers’ yearning for a comfortable life out of the mountains. Before being lifted out of poverty in 2017, Gaofeng Village was among the most destitute in the province. Among its 118 households, 101 were impoverished, whose sole source of income was growing rubber trees.
The village’s secluded location and poor transportation have been ascribed to the region’s poverty. Tucked away in the mountains, about 62 km away from the nearest town, the hamlet is almost isolated from the outside world.
Fu recalled the difficulties in accessing healthcare and sending their children to school. One night his child had a high fever, so he had to ride a motorcycle down the mountain to see a doctor. “I rode along the cliff,” he said, adding that every time he recalls the harrowing experience, it scares him.
To better protect the ecological environment and prevent villagers from relapsing into poverty, the provincial government launched a relocation project in 2019. The first relocation, involving the entire Gaofeng Village, will be completed before the end of this year. The government has also planned to relocate 470 households in other core areas in 2021.
Each family in Gaofeng has been allocated a two-storied house of 115 square meters in the resettlement community, with construction funded by the government.
“Besides the living room, there are four rooms, all of which have been decorated. It is much better than the tile-roofed houses on the mountain,” said Fu.
The resettlement community is also equipped with a service center, a reading room, a basketball court and a performance stage. The architectural design of the community also reflects the ethnic elements of the Li minority.
“The villagers have the tradition of making liquor, so the government has built five public brewing rooms in the new resettlement,” said Li Hongfeng in charge of the community construction.
“Moving everyone out is only the first step. We also need to make sure they live and work well without changing their lifestyle,” said Liu Wei, Party chief of the county.
The county government of Baisha has built an edible fungus plantation in cooperation with an agricultural company near the community. The plantation area not only recruits villagers but also gives 180,000 yuan (about 27,522 U.S. dollars) in dividends to the village collectives every year. A tea company was also invited to set up a production base near the community and generate jobs.
Meanwhile, buildings in the former village area will be demolished, said Wei Enwen, in charge of the poverty alleviation of Nankai town.
“The village site will blend with nature. Humans and their activities will leave the place, paving the way for wildlife to prosper,” he said.