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Clean water crucial to project

By AN BAIJIE (China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-13 02:52

Clean water crucial to project

Mu Weimin, an NPC deputy and mayor of Nanyang in Henan province, shows a picture in Beijing of local people relocated to project a water source from Beijing polluted. [Xu Jingjing / China Daily]

A mayor in Henan province is vowing to maintain a clean supply of water for a project that diverts water from the Yangtze River to northern Chinese cities, including Beijing.

Mu Weimin, a deputy to the National People's Congress and mayor of Nanyang, said on Sunday that the government shut down more than 900 polluting factories in recent years to protect water in the Danjiangkou Reservoir.

The reservoir, in Henan and Hubei provinces, is the source of the central route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.

The project, with eastern, central and western routes, is designed to take water from China's longest river, the Yangtze, to feed North China's drought-prone areas including Beijing and Tianjin. The construction of the middle route is scheduled to be completed next year.

The shutdown of the factories caused a decrease in annual income of nearly 1.5 billion yuan ($241 million) for the local government, Mu told China Daily during an exclusive interview.

"It's short-term pain for the local factories and the workers who lost their jobs, and we will offer them more job opportunities by supporting the development of environmentally friendly enterprises such as new-energy industries," Mu said.

Du Ying, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in October that water quality in some tributaries served by the Danjiangkou Reservoir had not met targeted levels.

The waste generated by agricultural production and rural residents' daily lives posed a threat to the water quality, Du said.

He asked local government to speed up efforts to improve water quality. A total of 12 billion yuan will be invested to tackle water pollution along the central route.

Mu said that the city government had relocated 165,000 people from their homes near the reservoir since 2009 in an effort to protect the water.

"I was impressed on seeing the residents kneel on the ground and bow to say goodbye on their last day," he said. "They have lived on the land for generations and gotten used to the lifestyle, and it's really hard for them to accept the fact that they have to leave."

The government paid a lot of attention to the migrant people, and none of them were injured during the relocation process, he said.

Zhang Jiyao, former director of the Office of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project under the State Council, said that improving the water quality is a tough task since the middle route crosses multiple provinces with a length of more than 1,270 km.

"We have built lots of polluted water processing factories, closed many heavy-polluting factories, upgraded industry and tackled the problems of agricultural pollution," Zhang said during the session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The authorities set up environmental protection zones within a kilometer of the waterways, which prohibit heavy industry and polluting factories, he said.

Mu, the mayor, said that the city government has refused the building of thousands of factories for fear of polluting the water source.

"Whether the water diversion project is a success or not will be decided by the water quality," the mayor said.

Zhao Shengnan contributed to this story.

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