HEFEI, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Lang Zehuai, 57, hoped he would be the last generation to live on "zhuangtai," mounds found beside rivers.
The mounds are either natural low hills or artificially built to provide safe ground during river flooding. Lang lives on one of the 80 zhuangtais dotted along the banks of Huaihe River, in east China's Anhui Province.
This summer, he and his fellow villagers are preparing to move to new homes with better facilities.
"When it floods the zhuangtai look like lonely islands in the river," Lang recalled.
There have been seven to eight such floods that Lang can remember and each one left a dreadful impression on him.
Even at peaceful times, the zhuangtai are crowded and unhygienic, he said.
Lang, along with 180 fellow villagers from 39 households, lives at the top of a zhuangtai around the size of a football field, with each person having less than 20 square meters.
However, Lang said even this is better than the zhuangtai his family used to live on around one kilometer away.
"My father said that one was bigger but even more crowded," Lang recalled.
In the current village, houses stand very close to each other. The distance is so narrow that it can only allow two people to pass walking side by side.
"As space is limited, we've built a second floor to accommodate all the people," said Lang, whose nine family members live in four rooms in the building.
As the buildings are so close together, the first floor rarely gets sunlight.
"We have no concerns about food and clothing, the only hope is to live in a more spacious place," Lang said.
This year, the Funan County government launched a relocation program for people like Lang who live on zhuangtais.
"There are 131 zhuangtais in the county each with less than 80 people living there, and the local government is expected to relocate each village as a whole," said Li Yunchuan, head of the county.
By 2020, 26,000 people living on zhuangtais in the county will be relocated to places with better environment and facilities.
Lang's new home lies three kilometers from where he lives now. From next year, he will be living in a 120-square-meter house.
"It's not just safer," Lang said, "But there is a school, hospital, and public square there, I am really looking forward to it."
On his social media account, Lang has a picture of a skyscraper as his profile picture. "Now our life is a bit difficult, but it will get better," he said.