Workers cash in on Sichuan building boom

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am

The unprecedented rebuilding work since the quake has triggered a construction boom in Sichuan , with modern hospitals, schools, residential estates and even resorts rising from the ruins.

With many reconstruction projects due to be finished by today, the second anniversary of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 87,000 people, workers have been toiling around the clock on some key construction sites.

Li Daoliang , a farmer in Huahai township's Boyang village, in Beichuan, said skilled workers like plasterers were being paid 110 yuan (HK$125) a day.

'Unskilled labourers can earn 60 yuan a day, which is almost the same as migrant workers in coastal cites,' Li said, adding that the construction boom had encouraged many farmers to stay in their hometowns.

Liu Qiang , from Qingchuan's Zhuyuan township, said: 'When I was working as a chef in Jiangsu I earned 2,000 yuan one month, but now I make much more at home.'

The 24-year-old said he was now running a guesthouse with his family because the rebuilding scheme had designated Zhuyuan as a new rural tourism site.

The deputy director of Qingchuan's publicity office, Liu Guihua , said local officials had found that 30 to 40 per cent of farm workers had stayed in their hometowns because of the reconstruction boom.

'It's also one of the reasons for the labour supply problem in some coastal areas like Guangdong.'

The reconstruction scheme, which has seen nearly 1 trillion yuan flow into Sichuan, has made some people's dreams come true. Ye Zhiping , the 56-year-old headmaster of Sangzao Middle School in remote Anxian county, Mianyang, is one example.

'I once planned to buy 10,000 square metres of barren land nearby to build a playground several years ago, but I had no money,' he said.

'After the quake, the Liaoning government donated more than 50 million yuan to build a 40,000-odd square metre school for us with a football ground, teaching buildings, dormitories and a library.'

The earthquake killed nearly 30,000 people in Mianyang, but none of the 1,000-odd students at Sangzao Middle School were injured, all of them escaping in less than two minutes after the quake struck, thanks to six years of emergency drills. Ye gained nationwide fame for keeping all his pupils safe, and that helped to attract rebuilding funds.

His new school was designed for 1,800 students, but the improved facilities have attracted more than 2,500, increasing the workload of Ye and his teachers.

'Our new challenge is how to manage our school and keep it at an advanced level, like before,' he said.

Zhang Yinghui , director of the Guangyuan Mental Health Centre, said his centre was facing a similar problem after being expanded and upgraded.

Zhu Yaozhong , Wenchuan's deputy county head, said that since most building work had been finished, local officials would soon change the focus of their work.

'Now we have brand-new schools and hospitals, with first-class equipment, in Wenchuan , but there might not be enough teachers or doctors and nurses who know how to use them,' he said.

'We will provide training courses or exchange programmes for them, as well as for the staff who will operate the new water supply system.'

There was no water supply system in some parts of Wenchuan before the quake.