Tarim Desert Highway, China

25 images Created 24 Oct 2010

This photo essay looks at the lives of a couple living in one of the remotest parts of China. The Taklamakan desert (AKA the sea of death), the size of France it is located in China's biggest province, Xinjiang. Cutting through the middle f this harsh environment is the world's longest cross-desert highway. To stop the floating sands from covering the 500km road, plants and trees are planted either side up to 10 rows deep in places. Every 5 kilometers down the highway is a simple blue pump house. Inside each one live a Chinese couple who ensure the pumps run on time.
Huang Yu Xian (???) and Li Chang Qing (???) are one such couple. They come from China's Sichuan province and have been working in the desert for six years now. This year they are living at pump house number 19, close to the centre in the desert at the 192km marker. Previous to this they lived at numbers 80, 45 and 21. Every morning and evening it is their duty to push a red button which activates the water pump and irrigation system which waters the plants. Apart from this task they have very few duties to carry out. This leaves the couple with very large amounts of time and isolation. Huang Yu Xian says, "This year we bought a small TV which was 1000RMB, so now it's not so boring." As far as they know only 6 other of the hundred plus houses have a TV. "In the morning I usually sweep our room and then make a start on preparing lunch, I also do a lot of knitting on the porch." The small house consists of one room where they sleep, a tool room and a generator room. There is no Kitchen or bathroom. A large barrel of drinking water is delivered to them once a month by the provinces oil companies. Each pump house also gets a food package delivered, however for Huang and Li, they supplement this by making 300+km round trip to the nearest convenience shop...
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