Cliff village's survival hinges on a manmade water channel

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/26 20:08:00

Huang directs villagers on how to best maintain the canal. Photo: IC

More than 100 households in a village deep in the mountains have benefitted from a manmade canal for decades. Tuanjie, a small village hidden in the mountains of Zunyi, Guizhou Province, is probably one of China's most isolated villages.

The village sits on a cliff and the closest town is more than 30 kilometers away. Residents of the village, who are mostly from the Gelao ethnic group, had a shortage of basic life necessities like water for many generations. People and animals all depended upon a single well for water. People queued up for hours a day, waiting for the water to trickle down drop by drop from the well.

The village head, Huang Dafa led them to dig a channel through the mountains, which took four years, and solved their most vexing issue facing their life.

Huang, now 82 years old, was chosen to be the village head when he was just 23. He first tried to divert water from a river 7 kilometers from the village in the 1960s. It was a tremendously difficult task for the villagers as the canal had to wind through several mountains and pass through three precipices as high as 300 meters. The project failed.

Huang then began to self-study hydrotechnics, and was determined to construct the canal again. He conducted village meetings to persuade discouraged villagers. And with his newly acquired knowledge and simple survey and drawing tools, he climbed the mountains and explored, mapped, set the pile points, and planned the canal route all by himself.

In 1992, Huang led 300 plus villagers to dig up the canal, using only hoes, steel cables, hammers and their own hands. He carried explosives to blow up the mountain partially to create a canal section.

By early 1995, a 40-centimeter wide, 50-centimeter deep canal had been built, spreading over three villages and more than 10 stockaded villages, with the main canal measuring 7.2 kilometers.

The canal not only solved the village families' drinking water shortage, it also helped irrigate 80 hectares of rice fields. Tuanjie can now ensure harvests during both rainy and dry seasons, yielding half million kilograms of rice a year.

Huang was recently made a "morality model" of Guizhou Province. After retiring as village secretary in 2003, Huang makes a living as a farmer. But he still checks the water channel every day to ensure it's not blocked.

A villager scoops water from the canal. Photo: IC

More crops can now be grown after receiving irrigation. Photo: IC


The river canal flows peacefully through the village after years of hard work. Photo: IC

Villagers follow Huang's lead in digging the water channel. Photo: IC


Newspaper headline: Moving mountains

Posted in: In-Depth

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