Once a sleepy village, centuries-old Beigang has come to resemble a scene from a gold rush recently thanks to the construction of Guangzhou's University Town. For the past few months, the village on Xiaoguwei island in the Pearl River - one of only four saved from the wrecker's ball as communities are being razed to make space for 10 new university campuses - has been a hive of activity as businesses were set up to meet the needs of 100,000 construction workers. Villagers' homes were rented out to restaurant operators, barbers' shops and games parlours. At midday, workers jostle back and forth from dining halls while smells of cooking hang in the air. Only 409 of Beigang's original 2,000 households still live in the village, among them Ms Shao, who can trace her ancestry back 21 generations. Ms Shao, her parents and younger brother have moved in with her older brother, renting out their home to make up for livelihood lost from their confiscated land. The 30-year-old has managed to find work as a member of the village's newly formed security squad, but her two brothers are forced to look for odd jobs in Shiqiao. The university authorities said one person from each household would be able to work as a security guard but in reality not everyone got a job, she said. 'I hope the University Town will hold training classes for us. I am still young. I want to work.' For now, Ms Shao and neighbours who have more than one house can rent out their second home for as much as 4,000 yuan but she says the future is uncertain. 'In the past, when we had no work we went back to the land, but now there is no more land. I don't know what the future holds.' Ms Shao has used some of her compensation to pre-pay her social security dues. She has to make monthly payments of 298 yuan for the next eight years, with the amount increasing by 120 yuan a year, before she can enjoy pension benefits. Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen. One jin (500 grams) of rice costs 1.5 yuan compared to 1 yuan in Guangzhou, she said. The air is thick with construction dust, well water is no longer drinkable and at night the streets swarm with migrant workers looking for fun. 'We have to queue up to get water from the taps. There is prostitution, gambling, drinking and break-ins,' Ms Shao said. Like the villages of Beiting, Nanting and Suishi, Beigang is to be preserved because of its long history, but the conservation is only in name. By the end of last month, demolition crews had torn down more than 12 houses and next year all that will remain of Beigang will be eight apartment blocks. Out of Xiaoguwei island's population of 14,000, about 10,000 have moved to a new community called Guwei New Village, a ferry ride across the Pearl River. Villagers live in new apartments but they are not happy. The development still awaits approval, raising uncertainty about their ownership. Many people remain jobless. 'Life is no good here,' said a former PLA soldier who moved to Guwei last year. 'As soon as we step out of our house, we have to spend money.' The villagers said they did not know who represented them in negotiations on compensation or how the amount was determined. They had received a relocation allowance but compensation for their land had not yet been paid and they did not know how to get it. The Guangzhou Land Development Centre, which has pledged to return 15 per cent of acquired land to the villagers, said jobs had been found for all relocated residents and only 103 people had refused employment.