Vil­lagers happy af­ter shift to nat­u­ral gas

China Daily European Weekly - - COVER STORY - By LIU ZHI­HUA ZHANG YU

Meng Fan­lai, Party chief of Yuanx­inzhuang vil­lage in Baod­ing, He­bei prov­ince, has wit­nessed a sig­nif­i­cant change in the past year since the coun­try pro­moted a shift from coal as a heat­ing source to nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­ity.

“There used to be so many smoggy days in the past, but the air is much cleaner this year. Ev­ery­one sees this,” Meng says.

“The whole vil­lage has be­come cleaner, hav­ing no dust or smoke from coal-burn­ing.”

The vil­lage, which isn’t far from He­bei prov­ince’s cap­i­tal, Shi­ji­azhuang, has re­lied for decades on burn­ing coal for heat in its long, cold win­ters, just as any av­er­age vil­lage in the north does.

In March last year, in re­sponse to the coun­try’s move to shift from coal to clean energy — that is, elec­tric­ity and nat­u­ral gas — as a heat­ing source in the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion and neigh­bor­ing cities, the vil­lage be­gan its trans­for­ma­tion to nat­u­ral gas in­stead of coal. It was not easy, how­ever. Many vil­lagers were op­posed, say­ing they were used to heat­ing with coal and that it would be too troublesome to change. Some were con­cerned with the cost, and some were wor­ried about safety and said it would be dif­fi­cult to learn to use nat­u­ral gas, Meng re­calls.

Even Meng had doubts over the use of nat­u­ral gas.

He cleared his wor­ries and be­came sup­port­ive of the shift only af­ter see­ing, dur­ing train­ing con­fer­ences that the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment or­ga­nized, how con­ve­nient and clean it is to use nat­u­ral gas.

Meng, 56, has been liv­ing in the vil­lage of 340

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