Stu­dents take safer route for new year

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Two days be­fore the start of the week­long Yi lu­nar new year hol­i­day, stu­dents from a re­mote vil­lage in Sichuan prov­ince re­turned home on Satur­day.

But un­like pre­vi­ous years, they had a much safer way of get­ting home — climb­ing a steel lad­der in­stead of old rick­ety rat­tan lad­ders.

“The steel lad­der has re­duced the time it takes to re­turn home by more than an hour. It’s much safer, and I no longer feel scared,” said Mose Ni­u­niu, a 6-year-old stu­dent.

The boy is one of 15 chil­dren from 72 house­holds in Atuleer vil­lage in the Liang­shan Yi au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture who used to rely on an 800-me­ter-long net­work of rat­tan lad­ders with­out rail­ings on their way to and from their board­ing school ev­ery two weeks.

The vil­lage is on the top of a cliff more than 1,400 me­ters above sea level. Its only link to the out­side world is the lad­der.

The rat­tan struc­ture, made up of a chain of 17 smaller lad­ders tied to­gether with­out any rail­ings or other safety fea­tures, had been used by vil­lagers for years.

Vil­lagers had to use them to reach the near­est mar­ket sev­eral kilo­me­ters away once a week to buy ne­ces­si­ties and sell their farm pro­duce, in­clud­ing pep­pers and wal­nuts.

Ac­cord­ing to Song Ming, an in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the pre­fec­ture gov­ern­ment, there are many rat­tan struc­tures in his area, but the one lead­ing to Atuleer was the most dan­ger­ous.

He has scaled rat­tan lad­ders be­fore, but when he scaled the one con­nected to Atuleer in Au­gust, Song said he was terrified.

“Tragedies took place from time to time. This year, a vil­lager in his 40s died af­ter fall­ing off the lad­der,” said Er Di­jiang, head of Atuleer vil­lage.

Photos of vil­lage chil­dren creep­ing up the cliff on the rat­tan lad­ders pub­lished by a Bei­jing news­pa­per in May sparked pub­lic out­cry, prompt­ing Liang­shan of­fi­cials to ad­dress the is­sue.

But it was im­pos­si­ble to re­lo­cate the vil­lagers, who said they did not want to leave their time-hon­ored habi­tat. So Lin Shucheng, Party chief of the pre­fec­ture, promised to build a steel lad­der to re­place the rat­tan lad­ders to en­sure the safety of the vil­lagers.

The steel lad­der, com­plete with handrails, was built at a cost of 1 mil­lion yuan ($145,000), with the lo­cal gov­ern­ments split­ting the cost.

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