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Life | The Long March

More people are on the move in China than ever before in human history. With China already home to a quarter of the world’s population, the Chinese government today is actively encouraging people to move to the city to relieve the pressure on scarce farm land and fragile topsoils. New towns and settlements are springing up from nowhere. Others are witnessing an explosion in their populations, stretching their capacity to deliver essential services to the limit. This film tells the story of one such town. Chengdu, in South West China, was once the southern staging post for the silk trade and capital of Shu Kingdom. In 256 BC, Shu leader Li Bing built the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, channelling the Min river through Chengdu in what is still recognised as a triumph of hydraulic engineering. But the irrigation system was neglected and abused during the rapid industrial development of the 1970s, resulting in massive pollution and floods. Today, Chengdu’s municipal government has succeeded in reversing the damage, turning what had become an urban nightmare into a model of modern-day planning.

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