URUMQI, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The first batch of herdsmen have left the hinterland of Taklamakan, the world's second-largest desert, and relocated to their new homes in northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as a part of a national poverty relief initiative aiming to end absolute poverty by 2020.
Since early August, 102 households of the remaining 212 households in the Deyriyabuhi Township have been relocated to a settlement near Yutian County seat in Hotan Prefecture, 90 kilometers away from their previous homes.
The Deyriyabuhi Township was established in 1989, spanning 2,600 square kilometers in the hinterland of Taklamakan, known as the "Sea of Death". Villagers used to live on grazing and planting cistanche along the narrowing tributaries of the Kerye River. According to local authorities, over 1,400 herdsmen lived in the area.
"The river beds have dried up in recent years. Villagers have been drinking bitter water from wells for years," said Jia Cunpeng, Party chief of the Deyriyabuhi Township.
The 102 households, all included in the poverty-stricken families living under the poverty line of 2,300 yuan (337,3 U.S. dollars) per capita each year, were the first batch to move, to be followed by the relocation of the remaining 110 households by October of next year, said Jia.
Villagers often say that "communication here solely relies on yelling and transportation means walking." The saying indicates the lack of communication and transport infrastructure in the area.
"Now, we live in new brick houses instead of thatched cottages. The settlement is much closer to the county seat, and the nearby roads can lead us to more places," said Mesat Yiburayim, 33, after his recent relocation.
More than 200 households in the township are primarily herdsmen, so the new settlement, only 90 kilometers away from where they used to live, is not too far, but the commute to the county seat will be reduced to 1.5 hours from the previous eight hours.
According to Jia, a kindergarten and a villagers' committee have been established in the settlement. Next year, more public service facilities including a primary school and a hospital will be completed.
"In the next two years, 200 hectares of forage land is expected to be cultivated near the settlement. It will offer a stable food supply for the livestock and help protect the ecosystem of the lower reaches of the Kerye River," Jia added.