Rail break­through a dream come true

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Lanzhou

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.

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