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Water diversion helps ease Beijing thirst
( 2003-10-03 09:13) (China Daily)

The first drop of water diverted from North China's Shanxi Province reached Beijing on the eve of the Chinese National Day to start easing the capital's water shortage.

Xinhua News Agency quoted the Ministry of Water Resources as saying it plans to divert 50 million cubic metres of water from Shanxi to Beijing, where the existing freshwater reserve can only offer a 10-month supply.

The diversion is expected to last for up to about 20 days.

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

But water officials say only half of the resource will actually make it into the reservoir as much will be lost during the 157-kilometre diversion along the Sanggan River.

The water deviation is the beginning of a large-scale push by the central government to ensure the supply of the resource in the capital.

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

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

Under the programme, by 2005, the annual supply rate to Beijing will be increased by 410 million cubic metres through deviations from neighbouring areas, which will cover about half of all tap water used in the city.

Despite increased efforts to address the capital's water shortages, problems with the quality of drinking water continue to arise.

Recently in its eastern suburban Tongzhou District, about 80 residents in the Dongluyuan and Fenglu Garden communities suffered from diarrhea after drinking squalid water.

Authorities responsible for monitoring the water quality said some elements such as iron were above acceptable standards.

Meanwhile, the water supply in Ruyang County in Central China's Henan Province was found to have been contaminated by pesticide on Wednesday morning.

Chai Zhanxian, vice-director of the local police station, said an initial check indicated some type of pesticide had been dumped into the local reservoir but further examinations were needed to confirm the exact type.

At least 30 people went to hospital before noon on Wednesday, obviously suffering from poisoning, eyewitnesses said, adding they did not seem to be in serious conditions.

The water facility has been closed and over 9,000 families were believed to have been affected.

The police investigation into the matter is continuing.

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