Disasters challenge China's water supplies

By Wang Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-30 07:47
Large Medium Small

Disasters challenge China's water supplies
Chen Lei is minister of water resources.

BEIJING - As extreme weather becomes more frequent in China due to the effects of climate change, the country's weak water projects are facing unexpected challenges, a senior official said.

Chen Lei, minister of water resources, told China Daily that the flooding and drought that affected millions of people this year has exposed many problems.

He said about 130 million people across the country are living in potential flood zones with an area of nearly 1 million square kilometers.

A catastrophic mudslide, triggered by mountain torrents in Zhouqu county in Gansu province on Aug 8 left 1,472 dead, 294 missing and more than 15,000 homeless, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

More than 66 percent of the country's small- and medium-sized rivers do not meet national flood control standards and more than 32,000 small water reservoirs are flawed, according to the ministry.

More than 70 percent of flooding disasters happen in small- and medium-sized rivers, the ministry said.

Besides flood season when water projects are challenged, the lack of anti-drought water projects and the limited capacity of small reservoirs aggravate the drought season that runs from spring to summer every year, Chen said.

Related readings:
Disasters challenge China's water supplies China intensifies construction of water conservation facilities
Disasters challenge China's water supplies Billions for water resources project
Disasters challenge China's water supplies China weighs law to prevent water, soil loss
Disasters challenge China's water supplies 230,000 people face water shortage in E China

At the peak of the severe drought in Southwest China early this year, nearly 21 million people from the worst-hit areas such as Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Chongqing and Sichuan lacked drinking water, according to statistics from the ministry.

"We are facing the fact that large populations and limited water resources are unevenly located," Chen said.

China's per capita amount of water resources is 2,200 cubic meters -- about 25 percent of the world's average -- and precipitation during flood season accounts for about 70 percent of the annual precipitation.

During the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) period, China increased reservoir capacity by more than 38 billion cu m and 19 key water projects along the Huaihe River were finished, Chen said.

The total investment in water projects during the past five years reached 700 billion yuan ($105 billion) with nearly 300 billion yuan allocated by the central government, a record high, he added.

By the end of 2010, maintenance work on all 6,240 medium- and large-sized reservoirs and key small reservoirs will be finished to guarantee people's security, he said.

More efforts will be made in the coming 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) period, Chen said.

He said during the coming five years, the ministry will strengthen the flawed water projects, including reservoirs and dams, raising flood control and drought relief capacity and minimizing economic losses and casualties triggered by natural disasters.