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Project starts to send water to dry areas
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-18 04:05

Tianshenqiao Reservoir in Southwest China's Guizhou Province opened a sluice to release water yesterday morning, officially starting the country's largest water diversion project.

An undated file photo shows the Feilaixia Reservoir.  
The rich waterway of the southwestern Chinese region in the upper reaches of the Pearl River has begun to snake its way,some 1,336 kilometres, to major cities in the Pearl River Delta that are experiencing severe drought and salt tide disasters.

Yantan Reservoir in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on the Xijiang River, will also begin to discharge water from January 24 through to the end of the month, while the Feilaixia Reservoir on the upper reaches of the Beijiang River, another tributary of the Pearl River, will drain off water to lower reaches of the river from between January 28 and February 3.

The two-week diversion project will help divert more than 750 million cubic metres of fresh water from the southwestern Chinese region to the prosperous region.

The aim is to ensure the cities of Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Zhuhai and the neighbouring Macao Special Administrative Region have enough drinking water.

More than 1,600 fishing boats, transport vessels and tourist ships in the upper reaches of the Pearl River will have to stop operating for two weeks, according to chief director of the water diversion project Zhang Dingshu yesterday.

All industrial and infrastructural projects along the river banks which might affect the water diversion project must also stop construction.

In Guizhou alone, more than 50,000 residents are affected by the project, Zhang said yesterday.

An average fisherman is estimated to lose about 100 yuan (US$12) a day because of the project, Zhang said.

Local governments will have to compensate the fishermen and the farmers who are affected, he said.

Government departments and units in Guizhou and Guangxi are required to take effective measures to prevent any landslides and collapses after the water in the reservoirs has been drained.

But Zhang promised Guizhou would unconditionally release fresh water to help Guangdong fight drought and salt tide.

The Ministry of Water Resources will continue to help co-ordinate efforts to draw off more water to the lower reaches of the Pearl River in the following months if it is necessary, Zhang said.

He Xiajiang, an official from the Guangdong Provincial Observatory, said Guangdong is currently experiencing the worst salt tide in the past two decades and the most severe drought in the last 55 years.

The province, that has had little rainfall since autumn, needs more than 12 billion tons of fresh water to stop the situation from deteriorating, said He.

The drought has affected more than 3.5 million people and 1 million domestic animals in Guangdong, he said.

By the end of December, more than 930,000 hectares of farmland in Guangdong had seriously been affected by the drought.

Up to 320,000 hectares of farmland had dried out.

The Guangdong provincial government has, so far, spent more than 170 million yuan (US$20.65 million) to help alleviate the effects of the drought.

The province seeded clouds to cause rain 200 times in the first 11 months of the year, adding extra rainfall of 2 billion cubic metres to help ease the drought.

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