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Sichuan Reconstructed
Cover Stories Series 2011> Sichuan Reconstructed
UPDATED: June 7, 2011 NO. 23 JUNE 9, 2011
The Sichuan Experience
In the quake-ravaged province, the Chinese people have rallied together to help victims rebuild their towns, confidence and lives

EYE OPENING: Students from Beichuan, Sichuan Province, examine sample of sea animals at Shandong Science and Technology Museum in Jinan, Shandong Province, on July 25, 2009. It has been part of the partnership assistance between Shandong and Beichuan since 2008 (ZHANG XIAOLI)

Many other counties and villages once severely damaged in the quake are also finding their own development path through cultural business. Wenchuan County, 80 km northwest of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, was the epicenter of the quake. During the reconstruction, two of its towns, Yingxiu and Shuimo, have developed a tourism industry themed on Qiang and Tibetan ethnic cultures with help from south China's Guangdong Province. The efforts have helped preserve minority culture and traditions.

In Shuimo, the Aba Teachers' College, the only basic education teacher training institution in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, is slated to open in September 2011, enrolling thousands of students and having hundreds of teachers. "They will boost consumption and promote the local culture," said Deputy Town Mayor Wen Yonggang.

"Setting up an institution of higher learning in a town is unprecedented in China, as these institutions previously were all located in cities," he said. "This would not have been possible without the help from Guangdong."

Green future

Ecological preservation was considered during the planning phases of every project throughout Sichuan. The reconstruction efforts were widely recognized as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve a better economic restructuring and shift to a sustainable and environment-friendly development path.

In Shuimo, the environment shows obvious signs of improvement now that polluting industries have all but vacated the area. Only two enterprises remain, and both are non-polluting, hi-tech ones, said Wen.

In the town, the air is brisk and clear; a narrow crystal stream flows along the main business street. On the mountains surrounding the town, traces of bare earth left by landslides triggered by the earthquake are turning a greenish gray.

"They were yellow before. The color change is a sign of forestation," Guo Shanying, a Wenchuan County official, told Beijing Review.

Bailu Town near Pengzhou City has combined its connection with French culture and its lush natural environment to develop tourism. Southeast China's Fujian Province has been providing assistance to Pengzhou through the partnership assistance program.

In Yongchang, the application of energy-saving technology in the reconstruction process has yielded a low-carbon town. Ground source heat pumps are used in hospitals and hotels to save energy. The main street, plaza and business street are equipped with high-power LED lights. Through the use of clean energy and recycled energy, maintenance costs have been greatly reduced.

Mental recovery

Recovery in people's hearts and minds is as important a part of reconstruction efforts, said Guo. "New houses are useless if one has no will to live," he said.

With painstaking efforts from local governments and provincial assistance, wounds for many have healed with time. So far, not a single case of suicide among earthquake survivors suffering from the psychological backlash of the disaster has been reported, said Guo.

The situation of Beichuan, as opposed to other areas of Sichuan, was more complicated, as the people there suffered more severe mental problems. Ren Xuemei, Director of Psychological Medical Service Center of Beichuan County, told Beijing Review, in the past three years, her center followed up and provided support to all residents in the town showing symptoms of insomnia, anxiety or depression, all early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The workload was overwhelming at the beginning," said Ren. "The center had six medical staff. Beichuan had around 230,000 residents."

Soon assistance poured in. Qingdao University in coastal Shandong provided psychological assistance for students and teachers in Beichuan. It also helped build standard mental health centers and trained staffers. Summer camps for students and teachers from Beichuan were organized in Qingdao and other cities in Shandong.

So far, 5,167 mental health service centers have been established covering all villages in the quake zone. About 125,000 people have received psychological counseling, according to statistics from the Sichuan Provincial Health Department.

In the meantime, the government encouraged survivors who lost a spouse to consider remarrying. Families that lost children were also encouraged to have another child (See page 27). Parents who lost children are regarded as the most depressed group following the quake.

In the year after the quake, more than 1,000 remarried couples started new lives. By the end of March this year, 3,761 women who lost children to the quake had given birth to new babies, said figures from the Sichuan Provincial Government. They have received financial, technical and mental assistance from both local governments and the assistance partners.

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