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Nomads Settling down to Better Lives in Xinjiang

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Dambo and his wife Saka have done what they never thought they would in their lifetimes-- settle down in a brand-spanking new bungalow.

"As nomads, we never stayed in any one place for very long because we needed to find suitable pastures for our cattle," father-of-six Dambo, 63, was quoted as saying by Saturday's China Daily.

"But now we can enjoy the convenience of our new home."

The Mongolian couple's house is part of a pilot program of 80 new homes in the mountainous Hoboksar Mongol autonomous county of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where authorities have spent 8 million yuan (US$120,000) on the project to house the poor and needy nomad population.

"The families and their cattle would still be in danger if they continued to practice traditional pasturing during the transition from summer to winter," said county official Dong Mei.

Now the Mongolians can settle without worrying about the hassle of moving, he said, and they can enjoy modern conveniences such as tap water and a regular power supply.

Many of the new houses have been allocated free of charge, while others require the nomads to pay a pre-agreed amount determined by a formal assessment of the families means. "The scheme is designed to cater to different families based on their conditions and needs," added Dong.

Dambo, whose family took up residence late last year, paid 20,000 yuan as his family was not considered "well off". But the Hoboksar government said it would be spending an equivalent amount on the design, construction and decoration of the house.

The long frost season means it takes about two years for a house to be built in the region. But Dong explained, "Our program proceeds slowly because it leaves plenty of time for the construction to be strong enough to sustain a powerful earthquake."

(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2009)

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