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Luo Baogen would have been just another ordinary man going about his business. But today, he is known for standing up against China’s development authorities. A simple duck farmer, Luo Baogen did not use force to put across his thoughts. He used just one word, a word that we are so familiar with as children: “No.”
Right in the middle of an eastern Chinese city’s new highway is Luo’s five-story row house that was on its way to being demolished, but was saved by Luo’s steadfastness. The house sits in the middle of the road that leads to a newly constructed railway station in the city outskirts of Wenling in the Zhejiang province.
Homeowners in China have always been grappling with the repercussions of redevelopment, and they have a strained relationship with local government officials. The government’s compensation provided to home-owners in lieu of their properties is too little. The houses that remain standing due to sheer resolve shown by the owners are called “nail houses” because the owners refuse to be hammered down.
Most of the families in Luo’s building had moved out after they received some compensation, but Luo and his wife, along with few people from the district, are holding out, with the hope that they will receive a larger compensation.
According to the Associated Press, Luo had recently spent approximately $95,000 on his house, and the initial offer by the government was just $35,000. Luo could not afford such a huge loss. Authorities in China are known to resort to extreme measures to ensure residents vacate their flats. But in Luo’s case, the water and electricity are still flowing. Determined as he is, Luo and his wife sleep in separate parts of the house, to avoid partial demolition. He should hopefully reach an agreement with the government soon.
In the fight to prevent infrastructure development from crushing people’s homes and entire lives, Luo is not alone. In India, the Mumbai Metro proposed a Rail Line Project, which runs through the most crowded areas of the city. With the completion of the Metro Line, entire areas will be plunged into darkness because the Metro blocks out the sunlight during the day. Considering the city’s burgeoning population and mismanaged infrastructure development, the Mumbai Metro has evoked mixed responses from the city’s denizens. How far the Metro will help alleviate Mumbai’s transportation problems is something that remains to be seen. Residents, who will end up suffering the effects of pollution caused by the Metro, may have to relocate, or live with the thought that they are contributing towards the growth of their city.