Hu gives top priority to boosting water projects
The central government wants a comprehensive water system in place by 2020 to safeguard the nation's crops and to combat future droughts and floods - like those that have taken a hefty toll on the country so far this year.
President Hu Jintao said at a conference on water resources that the nation would prioritise water projects, with irrigation and water conservation targeted, Xinhua reported yesterday.
Attended by all nine members of the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the two-day conference that ended on Saturday was the highest-level meeting yet held on water resources.
In January, the party's Central Committee and the State Council jointly pledged to adopt a stringent management system for water resources, including using 10 per cent of profits from land sales for the nation's water conservation infrastructure. By stepping up construction of water facilities, Hu said, people from all walks of life would benefit, both in terms of increasing their chances of survival in some areas, and economic development.
Hu called for an all-out effort to boost the construction of irrigation systems in rural areas and conservancy projects for flood control and drought relief.
Earlier this year, the worst drought in five decades ravaged provinces from Jiangsu , Anhui and Jiangxi to Hubei and Hunan, destroying more than 160,000 hectares of crops and affecting more than 30 million people.
When long-awaited rain finally came last month, it was torrential, flooding Guizhou province overnight, killing at least 14 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
Hu stressed the importance of efficiently using and conserving water resources, such as ensuring the safety of drinking water for both rural and urban households, building an ecologically friendly water environment, strengthening the management of a water-resources allocation system and using innovative technology for water-conservancy projects.
Ma Jun , director of the Beijing-based non-governmental Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, welcomed the measures. 'This is obviously a sign that the central government, for the first time, regards water conservancy as a strategic development issue for the country,' he said.
He said the massive drought and flooding this year highlighted the seriousness of dilapidated water resources across the whole country, and the feasibility of the south-to-north water diversion project could be threatened if the south was also hit by drought.
However, the veteran environmentalist warned that regional interest groups might take advantage of the new plan by building excessive hydropower stations.
Such stations could eventually result in environmental damage and the overuse of many natural resources.
'The conservation of water resources and how to use them efficiently while doing the least harm to the environment are the ultimate principles we should stick to during the processes in upcoming years.'
The amount of water in cubic metres that will eventually be diverted annually under the south-to-north water diversion project