Nomads get access to electricity


URUMQI, Nov. 24 — The isolated Lop Nur people in northwest China’s Xinjiang finally bade farewell to the days of candles, as a new electricity network reached their hometown in the desert.
More than 1,000 households in Karquga, Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, the main settlement of the Lop Nur people, suddenly had their unused electric lights come in handy about one week ago.
“Many of us have bought TV sets, refrigerators and washing machines in advance to wait for today,” said villager Maihemuti Amuti. “Finally, we can live a modern life.”
For generations, the nomads have lived around the Lop Nur, a dried-up lake secluded between the Taklamakan and Kumtag deserts in the southeast of Xinjiang.
Once the second largest salt water lake in China, together with the Tarim River, Lop Nur nurtured the kingdom of Loulan, an ancient civilization along the Silk Road, which was established around the second century BC and died out at 630 AD. The people living near Lop Nur are believed to be descended from the people of Loulan, who lived off fishing and hunting.
The lake dried up in the 1970s, but natives have no intention of leaving their home and stayed to safeguard the “holy spirit” of their ancestors.
For decades, the Lop Nur have lit their homes with candles or kerosene lamps. Solar panels were installed four years ago, but electricity supply is not reliable on rainy days.
The Xinjiang branch of State Grid Corporation invested about 24 million yuan in 30 kilometers of transmission network in three months.
The coming of electricity is expected to change the study habits of local children in Karquga, about 110 kilometers away from the next nearest town. Arzugul, a fourth grader, used a computer for the first time with her 23 classmates.
The Karquga primary school bought 50 computers last year, but they lay unused, said Paphitigul Kasim, the computer teacher.
“The children have been dreaming of using computers for a long time. Now, their world won’t be confined to the Lop Nur. They will see more via the Internet,” she said.
The Xinjiang branch of State Grid Corporation has invested 1.9 billion yuan in networks since 2011, helping 430,000 people get access to electricity for the first time, and it plans to invest another 2 billion yuan in the next two years to extend the networks to remote areas.
Covering 1.66 million square kilometers, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region covers roughly one sixth of China’s land area. Access to electricity is hard for people living in remote deserts or forests.
A survey by the regional power company showed 870,000 people still live without electricity at the end of 2012.[db:内容2]