Rail breakthrough a dream come true
When the first railway in the mountains of Dangchang county, Gansu province, opened on Monday, Yang Ga’nyu was there to witness a dream come true.
She had traveled more than 2,700 kilometers from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to her hometown with her youngest daughter, Li Youxia.
Yang, born in 1968, moved to Xinjiang in 1996 with her husband and two daughters to escape extreme poverty.
Her hometown in the hinterland of Longnan is surrounded by rocky mountains and back then had little arable land. The villagers had to hike long distances for fertile soil to grow anything.
A photo taken in 1996 shows Yang and her baby daughter in the family’s mud hut. On the wall, her husband had drawn in charcoal a train zigzagging through the mountains.
“We were having a hard time. We never had enough to feed a family,” said Yang, who used to beg for food in neighboring counties with one daughter on her back. “We longed to take a train to a place where we could make money.”
Later that year, the family hiked northwest to Xinjiang, a place they heard had rich natural resources and fertile land.
Life in Xinjiang is much better. Yang’s husband works as a cleaner in the regional capital, Urumqi, and Yang has settled down with the children in the Mongolian autonomous prefecture of Bortala, where she makes a decent income harvesting cotton in summer.
“It’s amazing that our remote hometown now has trains,” said Yang, who is visiting her home at the local government’s invitation.
The nearest train station is 10 km from her old house.
The new train route is part of an 855-km link between Lanzhou, capital of Gansu, and Chongqing. The entire route will open next year.
Li said the town is completely different to the one her parents told her about.
“They said every family lived in shabby huts and never had enough to eat, but I saw new houses and people there living a decent life,” Li said.
About 910,000 people in Longnan have been lifted out of poverty over the past five years. Meanwhile, the poverty rate there has dropped from 53 percent to 16 percent, according to local government figures.
In addition to more infrastructure and better farming conditions, many villagers have taken advantage of the boom in e-commerce and sell their farm produce nationwide.
“When the entire railway opens, I will come back more often,” Li said.