ANCIENT WONDER: The Dujiangyan Irrigation System built about 2,260 years ago still plays an important role in flooding prevention in the Chengdu Plain (SHI GANG)
As crops grow taller in warm April, farmers are busy with watering them. The sound of gurgling water is heard along the road to the Guansong Pengyan Irrigation Project in Hanwang Town, Mianzhu City in Sichuan Province that was hard hit by the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008.
Water is channeled by the renovated irrigation system from Mianyuan River to irrigate the fields. Most of the channels and valves of earthquake-damaged hydro infrastructure systems in Mianyang had been repaired as of January 2011, and are functioning.
Sichuan is crisscrossed with rivers. Local people have used river water to irrigate their farmland since ancient times. Today, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built about 2,260 years ago, still nurtures the crops on Chengdu Plain. The irrigation system prevents floods by diverting water to the dry parts of the plain. It has blessed the plain with bumper harvests and made it prosperous.
Water resources are unevenly distributed in Sichuan seasonally and regionally. Since there are not enough medium- and large-scale irrigation systems, a low percentage of water resources has been utilized. The province still suffers from floods and droughts from time to time.
The Wenchuan earthquake further weakened the province's hydro infrastructure. Provincial statistics show the earthquake damaged 1,222 reservoirs and created 113 barrier lakes. It affected the irrigation, power generation and drinking water supplies to about 6.68 million residents in earthquake-stricken areas.
After the earthquake, the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department conducted on-site studies and developed a reconstruction plan. Released on July 15, 2008, the plan said the hydro infrastructure reconstruction would be completed in two years, a year ahead of the Central Government's targeted schedule.
A total of 1,646 hydro infrastructure reconstruction projects has been carried out in the 39 counties hard hit by the earthquake. Zhu Bing, Deputy Director of the department, said, as of the end of March of 2011, altogether 1,554 projects were completed, accounting for 94 percent of the total. These projects cost 19.4 billion yuan ($2.99 billion), accounting for 92 percent of the budgeted investment.
Of the budgeted 21-billion-yuan ($3.24 billion) investment in hydro infrastructure reconstruction in Sichuan's 39 counties, 19.4 billion yuan ($2.99 billion) has been spent. Most of the money is from the Central Government's fiscal earmark for post-quake reconstruction, while the remaining are loans from the European Investment Bank, assistance from counterpart provinces, funds from the Sichuan Provincial Government, donations from businesses and private investment.
After the earthquake, 18 provinces and municipalities directly under the Central Government have provided assistance to their counterpart counties and cities in Sichuan. They contributed 2.3 billion yuan ($0.35 billion) to the hydro-infrastructure reconstruction projects, Zhu said.
Post-earthquake reconstruction projects have improved irrigation infrastructure in Sichuan to a level higher than that before the earthquake.
Xia Jingsong, a staff member working at the Guansong Pengyan Irrigation Project for more than 30 years, said the dam of the irrigation system was destroyed by the Wenchuan earthquake, and it had been reconstructed with help from developed coastal Jiangsu Province. "Jiangsu Province is rich in water resources, and the facilities it helps to reconstruct are technologically advanced," Xia said.
Zhu said how the hydro infrastructure reconstruction funds had been spent was a major concern of the public. The provincial government has made rules to ensure the money was properly spent, and carefully followed government-required procedures on project bidding.
The government has also attached importance to project safety monitoring. Several central government departments, including the National Audit Office and ministries of water resources, finance and supervision, have conducted random inspections of the reconstruction projects. "In addition, we also have an internal supervision system. We examine the work of water resources departments at city or prefecture level. Every county affected by the earthquake also has a post-disaster reconstruction committee, which monitors the projects there," said Zhu.