China, a Year After the Deadly Sichuan Quake

Housing is foremost on most residents' minds. Initially, blue tents provided by aid organizations dotted the countryside. Since then, residents of the larger villages and cities have been moved into enclaves of temporary housing with shared kitchens, bathrooms and a small square room for each family of four.

"Living in the temporary housing is better than outside without a roof, but the air feels trapped and hot in the summer and it is freezing cold inside in the winter," said Mr. Jun, a resident of a village in which every resident -- hundreds in all -- lost their homes.

After surviving one harsh Sichuan winter, residents are eagerly looking forward to the prospect of more permanent housing. Some locals are taking matters into their own hands and have cobbled together makeshift homes from construction debris, tarps and salvaged wood.

In the smaller villages, if any walls still stand, families only have the option of temporarily patching up their old houses and living within these precarious structures.

The Yu family has lived for many generations in a village in the northern earthquake area. The grandmother points out large cracks that run through the walls of their house. As some of the rooms are more stable than others, at night, all three generations squeeze into two rooms to sleep.

The rafters in the dining room were put up by her great grandfather, who inscribed them, by hand, with short verses from famous poems. "Although we are looking forward to moving into a new house when it is built, it will be a shame to knock down this old house with all our memories," said the mother, who was born in the house.

Red Cross: Rebuilding Sichuan is Like "Rebuilding Los Angeles"

The magnitude of the task of rebuilding is immense: In an interview with Reuters, the China spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross has likened the challenge to "rebuilding Los Angeles." Given this need, the Chinese government has stepped up its construction of new homes and recently pledged 1 trillion yuan ($147 billion) toward rebuilding efforts.

However, the significant pressure to push forward with the rebuilding may invoke unintended long-term consequences. The government-directed rebuilding program is already showing the telltale characteristics of a short-term mentality focused on putting up concrete structures that may not serve the needs of the population.

Posters promoting the new developments give locals a glimpse of the proposed rebuilding. In this area populated by subsistence farmers, many live the same way residents of this province have for generations -- in traditional family homes situated on large plots of land used for agriculture. One issue will be the long-term impact of rebuilding communities not in the traditional configuration but in planned clusters modeled after the surburban neighborhoods in the West.

Although this shift may seem inconsequential, it will have far-reaching effects as residents search for new ways to sustain their livelihoods. Some housing developments have been built over fertile land. This has left residents, whose only skills are related to farming and agriculture, at a loss when they consider how to support their families in the future. The result is bittersweet -- they will have roofs over their heads, but at the expense of their means of living.

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