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Exploring China's new frontier ep.10: Disappearing Darya Boyi: Fighting poverty means hard choices for Xinjiang

Reporter: Han Bin 丨 CCTV.com

10-10-2016 12:59 BJT

Full coverage: Xinjiang: Exploring China’s New Frontier

The Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China is relocating some 7,000 families from remote and scattered villages this year. It's part of the promise to help its remaining 2 million poor residents out of poverty by 2020. Nationwide, China has set the same target for 50 million poor residents in its 13th Five-Year Plan. That's more than 60 percent of the country's total poor population. Relocation is a key measure.

In today's episode, reporter Han Bin visits one of the most remote villages in southern Xinjiang. He learns anti-poverty efforts can mean hard choices for all.

A lonely oasis, deep in the Taklamakan Desert. Darya Boyi is a sparsely populated village. Some 300 families live here. All are ethnic Uyghurs.

45 year-old Zibidehan Subi has been living in this wooden house, since she got married at 15. She says the biggest change in the village is the number of vehicles.

"We enjoy living a nomadic life. But the children are at the county seat, so we need to go to see them. Otherwise, we don’t have to leave the village," Zibidehan Subi said.

Ali Abdulla is her youngest son. He goes to middle school in the Yutian county seat, some 250 kilometers away. Gathering tree roots for cooking fuel is an old survival skill. Darya Boyi is cut off from the outside world, and modern conveniences. But the old ways of living are changing. One question is always on Ali’s mind: When can he leave the desert?

"I want to take good care of my parents when I get a good job in the future," Ali Abdulla said.

Villagers have survived in the Taklamakan for 400 years. But the drying up of the Keriya River, and the encroaching sands, have resulted in 50 families moving to the government-built resettlement houses on the outskirts of Yutian.

Another 100 low-income families are expected to join them by 2018. This will include Zibidehan's family. For her husband Abdulla Qasimu, life is neither too bad nor too good.

"I have no skills other than herding. If I'm being relocated out of here, I can hardly make a living," Abdulla Qasimu said.

Darya Boyi has only trees, sand and livestock. Farming is not an option. And building roads needs money and time. For a quick solution, relocation seems the easiest.

Xinjiang aims to help its remaining 2 million poor residents out of poverty. This is mainly by removing them from scattered poor villages to more prosperous areas, or to upgrading the old places with modernity. And this once very isolated place is also changing.

The herders' way of life will soon end. But old villagers, like Zibidehan, want to stay in Darya Boyi.

"We would love to live an easy life till we die. Conditions are harsh, but that’s the life of nomads. Allah made me a herdswoman; that’s my life," Zibidehan Subi said.

Abdulla is resigned to the inevitable. He knows his children will not stay here. But he hopes that his final resting place will be among the poplars in Darya Boyi.

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