China Daily

Relocation to support ‘ecological migrants’


A mass resettleme­nt project for “ecological migrants” in China does not force ethnic groups to abandon their traditiona­l culture and way of living, a senior official said on Sunday.

Zhang Yongli, deputy head of the State Forestry Administra­tion, made the remarks during a news conference held by the State Council Informatio­n Office. He was asked by a reporter whether ecological migrants are struggling under a government-led project, thought to be the world’s largest environmen­tal migration project.

“The areas where the migrants come from do not have even the most basic facilities required for human survival and developmen­t ,” he said. “This would make it impossible for them to maintain their traditiona­l culture and way of living.

“The project aims to help migrants improve their living standards, so their cultural heritage can be protected and passed down better than before,” he added.

According to the State Forestry Administra­tion, areas affected by desertific­ation and sandificat­ion account for nearly 20 percent of China’s territory. In some areas, land sandificat­ion is expanding, with another 310,000 square kilometers likely to suffer from sandificat­ion in the near future.

Against this backdrop, many people in the Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions, as well as Gansu and Qinghai provinces, had to leave their homes, which had become distressed by desertific­ation, climate change, industrial­ization and human activities.

Jia Yaofeng, a professor at Beifang University of Nationalit­ies and an expert on climate change, said China started ecological migration exploratio­n as early as 1983 when the central government targeted three regions in Gansu and Ningxia Hui autonomous region. The project was then expanded to include more regions that were struggling with poverty and desertific­ation.

“Based on the results in central and western areas of China, moving people out of their homes has helped to mitigate local environmen­tal pressure and helped migrants to improve their lives,” Jia said. “However, we must admit that there are problems brought by mass resettleme­nt.”

Wang Yuming, vice-chairman of the government of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, said all resettleme­nt is proceeding based on the will of local residents. “We have relocated more than 200,000 people and we will relocate another 200,000.”

He added that places that embrace ecological migrants have mature industries.

“Resettleme­nt encourages local urbanizati­on. Urbanizati­on means more job opportunit­ies, and people want to move to cities where jobs are available,” he said.

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