Latest On Habitat For Humanity China’s Sichuan Rebuilding Plans

Pilot Project Set To Start in October

CHENGDU, 29th August 2008: Habitat for Humanity is moving ahead with plans to launch its first pilot rebuilding project after the 12th May earthquake which ripped through Sichuan province in southwestern China.

Temporary housing at Taizi where Habitat is set to build a pilot project in Sichuan.

Assessment: Habitat staff member Chan On-fat investigating collapsed homes and temporary shelters in Taizi, Xiaoyudong, Pengzhou City, Sichuan, China.

An agreement signed with the Pengzhou City authorities could see Habitat rebuild for 300-500 families living in and around Xiaoyudong, a small mountainous township of over 14,000 people near to the where the epicenter of the 8.0 earthquake struck. The project would involve rebuilding on the same sites of damaged or destroyed structures.

Habitat is penciling in October as the start date for construction work.

The possible site of the project is Taizi, a village of 383 families. Ten people died in the earthquake and 19 were injured. All the community structures and 95 percent of the homes were completely destroyed. The homes that were left sustained significant damage but structural improvements could make them safe to live in again.

Currently most of the families are living in temporary shelters built on nearby riverbed flats that are prone to flooding. Fifteen families have opted to build temporary shelters themselves out of the rubble of their previous homes.

Habitat is proposing to help families build core homes covering about 100 sq. m. These could be improved or expanded later as family finances allow.

The houses are being designed by Sichuan University’s College of Architecture and Environment as part of a project supported by the Chengdu and Pengzhou City’s Bureau of Science and Technology.

The houses would be made of wooden frames and would use bricks, cement and steel. Wooden frame houses would be safer than the more-common cement slab structures. Plus the materials are recyclable.

The designs would also be more aesthetically pleasing and traditional as a way to lay the groundwork for tourism development in the future. Taizi is on the road leading to two popular local summer tourist destinations, Longmenshan and Yingchanggou.

The costs would likely be RMB800-1,000 per sq. m. (US117-146), or about RMB 100,000, for a completed house.

The government’s rebuilding program for Sichuan initially indicated houses should cost RMB72,000-84,000 each excluding infrastructure. Each household would receive a government rebuilding grant worth RMB16,000-22,000 depending on the number of people in the family: the average is about RMB 20,000 per family.

Construction costs in the disaster zone, however, have risen significantly in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Habitat staff have already conducted an assessment community needs which include housing support, community structures such as nursery school, community center, library and medical clinic.

Pengzhou lies 36 kilometers northwest of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan. The city has a population of 780,000 spread over 20 separate townships.

Separately, Habitat for Humanity is investigating a larger rebuilding project in a neighboring area to the northwest. This project may support housing for over 4,000 families.

After the earthquake Habitat launched an initial US5 million campaign for the first-phase of a long-term and sustained reconstruction effort, through directly building homes and investing in the capacity to assist thousands more. In July, Habitat for Humanity opened a coordination office in Chengdu.

Habitat for Humanity has been rebuilding communities after natural disasters all over the Asia-Pacific region, including China, but it is a long-term process often taking many years.