China has launched its biggest relocation programme since the Three Gorges Dam, with 330,000 residents set to be moved to new homes to make way for a water project that will serve Beijing.
The first group of 499 villagers was moved on Wednesday in central China's Hubei province and the aim is to relocate 60,000 people by September 30, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The rest will be moved by 2014.
The South-North Water Diversion Project will siphon water from the Yangtze River to serve drought-prone north China cities such as Beijing and Tianjin.
Danjiangkou city in Hubei is to eventually be submerged under 170 metres of water, it said. Residents from the city's Niuhelin district were the first batch to be moved out.
"I am surprised nobody cried when the coaches left our village. Last night, we felt sorrow when the whole village gathered to have our last dinner in our home town together," a villager said.
The Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, forced more than 1.4 million people to move, their villages flooded by a 410-mile reservoir that the dam created on the Yangtze. That project was completed in 2006.