Three Gorges Probe

Nation set to harness river

China Daily
June 8, 2006

The central government is drafting a long-term plan for controlling floods, cut-offs, pollution and the build-up of sediment on the Yellow River. Harnessing the river will ensure the sustainable development of the areas along the 5,464-kilometre river, the second longest one in China, in this century, concludes a report released yesterday by the Ministry of Water Resources. China needs to spend 174.1 billion yuan (US$20.9 billion) to control the river, the report states. Sixty-four per cent of the funds must come from the central government.

The Yellow River supplies 12 per cent of the water for the country’s population and 15 per cent for farmlands. The report sets two targets – tackling eco-environment problems, such as erosion, and flood-control. Chen Xiaoguo, deputy director of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission under the Water Resources Ministry, suggested that the central government raise the prices of the river’s water that is used by agricultural and industrial interests. Accordingly, a new regulatory agency will be needed to oversee the ever-growing demand for the river’s water, which can be used to push the development of northwestern China, a national priority, Chen said.

The report also states that the central government must limit water-consuming industrial projects and diversion-works construction along the Yellow River. By 2010, all of the levees downstream of the Yellow River need to be reinforced to meet State flood-control standards for the river’s changing watercourse, the report states. Otherwise, the consequences could be disastrous. Seasonal floods are still the worst threat for the people who live along the river’s lowlands, which includes 250,000 hectares of farmland. The report says the river has substandard dikes along a 440-kilometre stretch of the lower reaches with another 471-kilometre long section with dikes that leak. Experts who drafted the report warned that “the limited water resources of the Yellow River cannot be used for drinking or irrigation unless there are effective pollution controls.” The cut-off of the river that can be caused by a worsening water shortage, an greater demand for water, a poorly regulated water supply and by pollution can be solved by adopting water-efficient irrigation and reusing 75 per cent of the industrial water supply, the report states. Although the Yellow River is the most important water source for North and Northwest China, it has suffered cut-offs since the 1970s. The river’s cut-off can also be eased by diverting 4 billion cubic metres of water from the Yangtze River during this decade, Chen added.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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