China is set to evacuate more than 9,000 citizens from the southwest Guizhou province this year for the world's largest radio telescope, which it says will boost the search for alien life.
The Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), being constructed at a cost of 1.2 billion yuan, will be ready by September, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
Residents living within 5 kilometres of the telescope will have to be evacuated to create a "sound electromagnetic wave environment," a Chinese official was quoted as saying by the agency. The locals will be relocated and compensated with 12,000 yuan ($1,838 ), reports said.
The Chinese telescope, with a 500-metre diameter, will be larger than the current largest operational radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which is 300 metres in diameter. The FAST comprises 4,500 triangular panels that can reflect radio signals from distant parts of the universe to the receiver dome, according to China Daily.
"With a larger signal-receiving area and more flexibility, FAST will be able to scan two times more sky area than Arecibo, with three to five times higher sensitivity," Li Di, chief scientist from the National Astronomical Observatories, told the newspaper.
The large telescope is located in the remote Karst mountains in the Guizhou province to ensure minimum interference from other radio signals.
China has undertaken several such mass relocations for infrastructure projects in the past, including for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which reportedly saw 1 million people being forced out of their homes. Reports suggest as many as 40 million people have been evacuated since the 1970s to make way for developmental projects in the country.