Neighbours to ensure adequate water for Beijing Olympics

By Xinhua

Shijiazhuang (China) : Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympics, has intensified cooperation with neighbouring Hebei province to protect water resources in its upper streams and ensure adequate supplies.

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The Chinese capital’s municipal government has earmarked 100 million yuan ($12.8 million) to prevent water pollution and foster water saving in Zhangjiakou and Chengde, two cities in Hebei whose water feeds two major Beijing drinking water sources, Miyun and Guanting reservoirs.

Currently 20 percent of the fund is already in place to finance seven projects, including a pollution prevention project at the source of the Heihe river in Chicheng county of Zhangjiakou.

With the Olympics drawing near, water quality in Hebei province is of vital importance to Beijing as 53 percent of the water in Miyun Reservoir, the largest storage facility in north China, comes from Chicheng county.

This means one third of Beijing’s drinking water comes from Chicheng.

The county has pumped more than 60 million cubic metres of water to Beijing in four years to ensure adequate water supplies in the capital, said sources with the Hebei provincial water resources bureau.

Chicheng has also stepped up efforts to curb 1,800 sq km of soil erosion and has closed down a number of polluting plants and mines to minimise water pollution.

Meanwhile, farmers in three counties upstream from the Miyun reservoir are being compensated to switch from rice to corn and other less water-intensive crops to bolster the capital’s water supplies, according to a deal between the governments of Hebei province and Beijing.

The endeavours by Luanping, Fengning and Chicheng counties will save at least 100 million tonnes of water a year, analysts said.

Beijing will divert up to 400 million cubic metres of water a year from Hebei to safeguard water supplies for the Games, a water official said in May.

The water, over a tenth of Beijing’s 2006 consumption of 3.43 billion cubic metres, would be ready to be pumped from four of Hebei’s reservoirs by April 2008, said Bi Xiaojun, deputy head of Beijing Water Authority.

Yet Hebei is arid itself, with 545,000 people and 88,000 heads of cattle suffering from a seasonal water shortage right now, the provincial water resources bureau said.

Most of the thirsty population are in the Yanshan Mountains and the Bashang Plateau in Zhangjiakou, where 200,000 hectares of drought-hit cropland have gone futile this fall.

Rainfall in Hebei province has shrunk by 120 mm over the past 50 years and its drought-hit areas has consequently expanded by 1.4 percent every 10 years, the local meteorological bureau said.

Hebei received an average 274 mm of precipitation during this year’s rainy season, 28 percent less than normal.

As a result, water storage in Hebei’s large and medium-sized reservoirs is 20 percent less than usual, at 2.12 billion cubic metres.

In 2010, water from the Yangtze River will arrive in Beijing through the south-to-north water diversion project, a $25 billion scheme to pump water from China’s southern rivers to its arid north.