YUSHU, Qinghai Province, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Four years after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,600 people and flattened the plateau town of Gyegu on April 14, 2010, brand new schools, hospitals, museums, and squares have emerged.
Before the earthquake, Gyegu, capital of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was a poor town in northwest China's Qinghai Province with a majority population of ethnic Tibetans.
Residents have new lives thanks to investment of about 44.4 billion yuan (7.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 1,248 reconstruction projects completed last October, ranging from solar-powered houses and greenhouses to concrete roads, water plants and museums.
Pubu Chagxi, 36, from Degya Village, was able to use a flush toilet for the first time at his new house built by the government.
Though not used to it at first, he now thinks it is healthy and convenient.
He also enjoys his solar-heated floor and even uses wi-fi at home to access the Internet through his smartphone.
Still, he has discovered that the new facilities do not necessarily bring real benefits to the 242 households in the village.
Although 144 vegetable greenhouses have been established in the village with government funding, no one in the village has mastered the planting techniques. The village administration has to rent the greenhouses to people from other provinces for cultivation.
Tsepamao, 62, a resident in Gyegu, now lives like a city dweller after moving into an apartment building. His family of 12 was allocated three 80-square-meter two-bedroom apartments.
But that means they have to bear the rising living costs.
"The heating cost is 3,000 yuan a year now. In the past, we just used yak dung," said Tsepamao, adding that the property management fee is 700 yuan per year for each apartment.
"We cannot even afford yogurt," said Tsewang, another Yushu resident who moved into a new apartment. ( "A 1.5-kilo barrel of yogurt sells for about 100 yuan, almost double the price before," said the 31-year-old man, who is living with seven family members at his new 120-square-meter apartment.
The new life is not easy for Tsewang, who is illiterate and makes his living digging for caterpillar fungus, an expensive ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, with an annual income of about 30,000 yuan.
His wife now works at a nearby supermarket to support the family.
LACK OF PROFESSIONALS
High-tech products have improved villagers' quality of life over the past 20 years, but they become useless ornaments once they break, as nobody can repair them, said Geleg Dargye, Party secretary of Degya Village.
"A broken switch or a solar panel requires technicians from the provincial capital to fix," he said.
The Gyegu township water plant built and funded by the Beijing municipal government has faced similar troubles. A mechanical cable malfunction led to a five-day water cut-off in March.
As technicians from Yushu Prefecture could not solve the problem, the plant had to invite experts from Beijing to fix it.
Yushu Prefecture People's Hospital, with 180 million yuan in investment from China State Construction, has become one of the best hospitals in the province with more than 50 departments and 400 beds after its completion in October 2012.
The hospital has only 252 staff. It needs 600 more to meet demand, according to Pema, head of the Yushu Prefecture health bureau.
"The central government has given us the top facilities, but we lack top talents," he said.
A lack of professionals also plagues the education sector.
China has invested a total of 2.1 billion yuan in the reconstruction of schools in Yushu, but a lack of teaching staff has created a big headache for the local government.
There are currently 175 schools with 71,678 students in Yushu. There are 3,509 teachers, but 480 more are needed, said Tamdrin, head of the prefecture education bureau.
"The three-year reconstruction has built a new Yushu. Only by taking advantage of the hardware can we live up to the help from the country and the people," said Wu Dejun, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Yushu Prefecture committee.
Yushu has formed a 10-year assistance mechanism with Beijing to provide technical know-how to the plateau region in urban management, education, medical treatment and culture, said Wu.
Experts from Beijing's maintenance, tap water, drainage and sanitation administrations have been sent to Yushu regularly to assist the prefecture in building a modern urban management system, he said.
Situated at 4,000 meters above sea level, Yushu is home to two state-level nature reserves, Sanjiangyuan, the cradle of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers, and Kekexili, home to several species of endangered wildlife, including Tibetan antelopes.
Liu Lizhi, head of the prefecture tourism bureau, is confident in developing Yushu into a top tourist destination for scientific exploration, photography, Tibetan Buddhism pilgrimages and environmental protection.
Yeshe Sumpa, 33, a former member of Plateau Perspectives, an environmental protection NGO, quit his job this year and started a shop a week ago selling souvenirs from Southeast Asian countries to relieve his family economic burden.
"As so many people move into new apartments, I have confidence in my business," he said.
About 200 meters away from his shop is the newly built prefecture tourist distribution center.
"When tourism booms in Yushu, I can do something about environmental protection again," he said.