November 28, 2008
SHIJIAZHUANG (Xinhua) — Engineers on China’s massive project to divert water from the Yangtze River to the parched north of the country are struggling to repair a breached canal that flooded 70 hectares of farmland.
Du Bingzhao, an official with the office for the South-to-North Project of the State Council, on Friday confirmed the mishap when contacted by Xinhua Friday, but would not confirm that repairs were completed.
The breach occurred around 5 a.m. on Saturday at the 6.74-kilometer grand canal in Laishui County, Hebei Province. The canal serves as part of the diversion project and also as an emergency water supply from Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital, to Beijing.
The flooded farmland belonged to four villages near the canal.
Li Zhihui, a farmer in Xileizi Village of Yongyang Township, said his farm, where he keeps 300 pigs, was a kilometer from the breach.
“The water reached my home around 8:40 a.m. that day,” said Li.” When I heard noise from the pig farm, I came out to find the water around my home was knee-deep and the pigsty flooded.”
Li said he lost 30 piglets in the flooding.
Beijing has had water shortages partly because of its geography, with nine consecutive years of drought since 1999. It has received only 75 percent of its average precipitation over that period.
An emergency diversion of 300 million cubic meters of water from Hebei Province began on Sept. 18 and will last until March 10,according to Hebei Provincial Water Resources Department.
It is not known whether the Nov. 22 accident had any adverse impact on the water supply.
As of Friday, the lower part of the 3-meter-wide opening had been blocked up with sandbags, while work continued on the upper part of the opening with the help of large machinery.
Laishui County government is still assessing the damage. Du Bingzhou declined to discuss compensation for those affected.
The South-to-North Water Diversion Project, consisting of eastern, middle and western routes, is designed to divert water from the water-rich south of the country, mainly the Yangtze, the country’s longest river, to arid northern part.
The eastern and middle routes are already under construction. The western route, meant to replenish the Yellow River with water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze through tunnels in the high mountains of western China, is still at the planning stage.
According to the project office, by 2010, about 1 billion cubicmeters of water will be diverted to Beijing annually.