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240,000 Set to Relocate for Ecological Protection

The Chinese government will spend 1.29 billion yuan (US$162.26 millions) relocating 240,000 people from areas requiring ecological protection this year, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced on Wednesday.

The relocation would focus on poor rural populations living in harsh environmental conditions, said an NDRC official.

The NDRC has requested local governments to provide farmland and houses for people being relocated.

The project to relocate people from ecologically fragile areas, including seven million farmers in the west, started in 2000.

Government statistics show 700,000 people, most of them living below the poverty line, had been moved in the west by 2005.

NDRC figures show more than a third of China's total area of 9.6 million square kilometers suffers soil erosion and the country has 2.62 million square kilometers of desert.

China also has 180 million hectares of grassland that have seriously deteriorated.

(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2006)

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