Special Report: Reconstruction After Earthquake
CHENGDU, April 1 (Xinhua) -- A public controversy over spending on a proposed earthquake museum in southwest China's Sichuan Province has prompted officials to come forward and defend the plans.
The 2.3-billion-yuan (338 million-U.S.-dollar) plan reported by local media comprised costs of other projects in addition to the Beichuan County Earthquake Museum, near the epicenter of last year's May 12 quake, said Lin Jizhong, deputy director of the county's Culture and Tourism Bureau Wednesday.
The museum itself would only cost 135 million yuan (20 million U.S. dollars), said Lin.
The news of the plan provoked a public outcry on the Internet after local newspapers reported in late March.
Many people contended that a museum was necessary, but as the province was in dire need of money for reconstruction, investing such a huge amount in the museum was unwise.
Wu Changfu, head of the Shanghai-based project planning expert group which outlined the budget, said, "The money was not used solely for construction of the museum building. The environmental protection work and road construction will also be included in the plan."
"The feasibility report of the museum is being drafted," Wu said.
Lin said the planned museum was not just an exhibition building, but encompassed the remnants of the old county seat, and traces left by secondary disasters such as mud-rock flows and quake lakes.
The natural scenery of the Tangjiashan quake lake area and culture of the Qiang ethnic minority would also feature in the attraction.
The entire project covered 8 square kilometers, with the Beichuan Middle School at the center, Lin said.
More than 80,000 people were confirmed dead or missing after the quake.
Premier Wen Jiabao suggested when he was in Beichuan after the quake that a museum should be erected.
Lin said construction was scheduled to start later this year in fall went smoothly.
"We hope the museum can bring more revenue to local people," he said. "The dead are dead, but we hope the living can live better lives."