County vows to correct misuse of post-disaster relief money

Updated: 2011-05-30 07:52

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

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County vows to correct misuse of post-disaster relief money

CHENGDU - Netizens have protested angrily over the inappropriate use of 90 million yuan ($14 million) of post-disaster reconstruction funds in a Sichuan province county since that misdeed was disclosed in a prime-time program at China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday evening.

In Internet posts, the netizens called for severe penalties to be meted out to those responsible for the misuse of the money. Without punishments, nobody will give money for disaster relief in the future, they said.

Santai county lies near the confluence of the Fujiang and Kaijiang rivers and is often flooded.

Many locals still remember the two most severe floods recorded in the county's history, which occurred in 1981 and 1998.

They submerged 2,233 households, toppled houses containing more than 60,000 square meters of space and caused direct economic losses of nearly 100 million yuan, according to Xiao Longguo, deputy chief of the Fujiang and Kaijiang development and construction bureau.

To cope with flooding, Santai started in August 2006 to build a dam made of reinforced steel bars and concrete along the Fujiang River.

More than 30 million yuan was spent on the project, which was completed

in December 2007.

A real estate company began three years ago to build restaurants, teahouses and a amusement park behind the dam.

The buildings take up between 300 meters and 400 meters, occupying nearly half the width of the river's bottomlands in Fujiang, according to CCTV.

China's laws on flood prevention and river management prohibit buildings from standing on bottomlands because such structures hamper the flow of flood water.

The buildings were put up by the Shanxin Real Estate Development Company without permission from Santai's water conservancy, land and resources, planning and construction bureaus.

The buildings therefore are illegal, said Song Weiming, director of the office of the county flood control and drought relief headquarters.

An investigation by CCTV found that Shanxin has rented land on the river bottomlands for 10 years from the Hongda Asset Investment and Management Co Ltd, which is owned by the county government.

Set up in late 2005, Hongda was appointed by the Santai government in 2007 to manage the bottomlands of the Fujiang and Kaijiang rivers.

Because of Hongda's connection with the government, Shanxin could start building restaurants, teahouses and various amusements inside the dam without obtaining permits, said Shan Yunqiang, Shanxin's chairman.

CCTV reporters also found the Santai government had allocated a post-quake reconstruction fund containing 90 million yuan to Hongda.

The money should have gone into the reconstruction of buildings and temporary shelters for people affected by the magnitude-8.0 Wenchuan earthquake that struck in May 2008, said Chen Yong, an official with the county finance bureau.

According to CCTV's report, Hongda instead allocated the 90 million yuan in January 2010 to a thriving real estate company, which reported a profit of 100 million yuan this past year.

According to the Mianyang city government information office, the Mianyang government responded to the CCTV report by asking the Santai county government to correct its deeds.

The Santai government has promised to act in accordance with that prompting, to dismantle the illegal buildings as quickly as possible and to conduct a thorough investigation into the use of the reconstruction money.

China Daily

(China Daily 05/30/2011 page5)


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