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Large water diversion program launched to ease shortage in Beijing
( 2003-09-28 11:33) (Xinhua)

China began to divert 50 million cubic meters of water from north China's Shanxi Province over the weekend to ease water shortage in Beijing, where the existing freshwater reserve is only enough for 10 month's supply, according to sources with the Ministry of Water Resources.

Witnessed by officials from the provinces of Shanxi and neighboring Hebei, and Beijing, a flood gate to the Cetian Reservoir in Shanxi was raised on Friday to release water for Beijing.

The first drop of the 50 million cubic meter of water is expected to reach Guanting Reservoir in Beijing on Sept. 29, and the water diversion program is to last eight or 10 days.

The move represents the first trans-regional water diversion to Beijing from outside the capital, which has been hit by droughts for the fourth consecutive year.

Water officials said only half of the water will flow into the reservoir as the remaining will be lost in their 157 kilometer trip through Sanggan River.

The water diversion is the beginning of a large-scale management of water resources by the Chinese central government to ensure water supply for the capital.

Wu Jisong, director of Water Resources Department from the Ministry of Water Resources, described the water diversion project as an important test for the implementation of the Program on Sustainable Use of Water Resources in Early 21st Century.

According to the program approved three years ago by the Chinese Central government, Shanxi, Hebei and some other neighboring provinces will supply large volumes of water to Beijing every year before 2008, when water from the mighty Yangtze River will be diverted to Beijing for the first time.

The director said the central government and Beijing municipal government have earmarked a total of 22 billion yuan (US$2.7 billion) in special funding for water diversion projects and compensation for areas that supply water for the capital.

Under the program, by 2005, when water supply to Beijing will increase by 410 million cubic meters through water diversion from neighboring areas, or about half of the total volume of tap water the city supplies.

Among the increased water resources, Shanxi would contribute 60 million cubic meters to 90 million cubic meters each year, and Hebei will contribute 100 million cu m to 150 million cubic meters to Beijing, depending on annual overall rainfall.

The annual per capita amount of water in Beijing stands at about 300 cubic meters per person in Beijing, while the benchmark for an area suffering acute water shortage is 1,000 cubic meters or less per person, said the director.

Officials told Xinhua that the annual water supply for urban residents in Beijing is 890 million cubic meters, mainly from Miyun and Guanting reservoirs in rural Beijing. But consecutive droughts in the past fours years resulted in a drop of 400 million cubic meters of water in the Miyun Reservoir compared to last year.

"The water table also dropped by 0.78 meters by the end of July to 19.01 meters in part of Beijing, making it impossible to draw underground water," Wu said.

Faced with a water shortage, Beijing has raised charges on tap water sewage as part of its bid to cut consumption, while encouraging the use of recycled water in watering plants, flowers and cleaning cars.

To increase water supply in Beijing, a water diversion project will also be launched in October in Hebei Province to supply water to Beijing in case of a water shortage, according to water resources official in Hebei.

The project, which will cost 12.6 billion yuan (US$1.53 billion) and involve a 225-kilometer water diversion channel, from Shijiazhuang City, capital of Hebei Province, to Beijing.

Beijing is one of the many cities on the Chinese mainland with water shortage problems. About 420 of 600 cities on the Chinese mainland suffer water shortages, according the Ministry of Water Resources.

A total of 110 cities are in acute shortage, resulting in 200 billion yuan (US$24 billion) to 300 billion yuan (US$36 billion) in lost industrial output each year, figures provided by the ministry show.

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