CHONGQING: China will invest heavily in water conservancy, a sector expected to push ahead the national economy and further expand domestic demand.
By the end of this year, the last year of China's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) period, a record 276 billion yuan ($40.4 billion) of the State budget is expected to be poured into the sector. The trend is to be continued in the next Five-Year Plan, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said Friday.
By then, total spending for the sector is to reach 158 percent of the period's planned investment, the highest ever had for the same period plan, he said.
Chen spoke at a conference reviewing the sector's planning and investment for water projects to be launched in the years ahead.
To date, the country has spent 143 billion yuan on water conservancy, with over 22 percent coming from the government's stimulus package and the rest raised by local authorities, according to Zhou Xuewen, the ministry's chief planner.
By the end of last year, more than three million job opportunities had been created, he said.
The ministry spent over 68 percent of the money improving water projects designed for the people's well-being, including updating thousands of aging reservoirs, helping nearly 61 million rural residents gain access to safe drinking water, renovating irrigation systems, building small-sized rural hydropower plants and continuing rural electrification.
The rest was spent on water supply, flood-control, fighting droughts and increasing water storage to meet ever-growing water demand around the country, according to Zhou.
"Without further development, it may become a factor restricting China's economy," he said.
"Over half of the country's farmland land has no access to irrigation systems, tap water is only available for less than 70 percent of its large rural population, severe flood or drought often play havoc with many areas and most cities are plagued by water shortages because of the country's unreasonable water resources allocation," he said.
Without improvement for the water sector, these problems would be even worse by 2030, when China's urban population should be over 70 percent, experts say.
The major ways out are to ptimize water resources distribution, regulate water control and supply systems and buildia water-saving society, Chen said.
By 2008, the national annual water consumption reached 591 billion cubic meters. Reservoirs throughout the country were at least 40 billion cubic meters short of water,, he said.
As a result, per capita water consumption only stood at 446 cubic meters per year, far below the world average of 640 cubic meters. "If our standard reached the world average by 2030, the national per capita water consumption would have to amount to 1 trillion cubic meters of water per year, far exceeding the upper limit of the country's water supply capacity," he said.
According to the ministry, the country's existing per capita water supply capacity only reached 40 percent of the developed countries' average or about two-third of the world's average.
Worse than that, over 60 percent of its water supply was consumed by irrigation but only 48 percent was efficiently to water growing crops, while the rate was up to 70 percent in developed countries. (China Daily)