By Michael Evans.
Villagers in Gansu province are up in arms over a government project to build walls dividing their homes from a local highway.
The whitewashed, tile-topped walls are nearly 2 metres tall and run for a distance of over 5 kilometers through Gansu’s Zhang county, along a highway connecting the provincial capital Lanzhou with Chongqing.
Villagers say that construction of the walls started in October, dubbed by local authorities as a “poverty-alleviating, repair project“, according to the South China Morning Post.
“The walls were built just to keep our dilapidated houses out of the sight of passing cars, particularly those of senior officials,” said a villager in a People’s Daily video report.
[T]he construction has triggered an outcry as residents argue that the walls occupy the sidewalk which has been narrowed to make room for the busy highway. Since heavy-loaded trucks are always passing by, local villagers feel unsafe.
Local villagers also said the money spent on the walls could have been used to upgrade their homes. “The walls do not benefit us at all and they are useless,” said another villager.
The county has defended the walls, with a local propaganda officer explaining to the Global Times that “the walls aim to enhance the appearance of the villages and encourage villagers to pay more attention to the tidiness of their homes.”
One township official dismissed both concerns and critics at the same time. “Some people here have just become literate and don’t understand the idea behind the project,” he said.