In mid-April, the sound of gurgling water was heard along the road to the Guansongpengyan Irrigation Project in Hanwang Town, Mianzhu City in southwest China's Sichuan Province, which was hard hit by the 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008.
The water there was channeled by the renovated irrigation system from Mianyuan River to irrigate the fields. Most of the channels and valves of the Mianyang's earthquake-damaged hydro infrastructure had been repaired as of January 2011, and are now functioning.
Sichuan is crisscrossed with rivers. Today, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, built about 2,260 years ago, still nurtures the crops on the 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.
However, Sichuan still suffers from floods and droughts from time to time as the water resources are unevenly distributed seasonally and regionally, plus there are not enough medium- and large-scale irrigation systems.
The Wenchuan earthquake further weakened the province's hydro infrastructure. Provincial statistics show the earthquake affected the irrigation, power generation and drinking water supplies of about 6.68 million residents in earthquake-stricken areas.
After the earthquake, the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department released a reconstruction plan on July 15, 2008, saying the hydro infrastructure reconstruction would be completed in two years, a year ahead of the Central Government's targeted schedule.
"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," said Zhu Bing, Deputy Director of the Sichuan Provincial Water Resources Department. "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. It pushed forward the reconstruction process."
According to Zhu, the post-earthquake reconstruction projects have improved the irrigation infrastructure in Sichuan to a level higher than that before the earthquake.
Many earthquake-damaged reservoirs were built in the 1950s-60s and were not consolidated or maintained before the earthquake struck. The project conditions were improved through the reconstruction.
The dam of the Guansongpengyan Irrigation Project had been reconstructed with help from east China's Jiangsu Province. The old dam, which was hard hit by the quake, was abandoned after the panel's on-site survey.
"Several factors contributed to the smooth reconstruction," Zhu said. "The governments of both Sichuan and counterpart areas paid high attention to the hydro infrastructure reconstruction projects, and the design concepts they offered were cutting-edge."
When the post-quake hydro infrastructure reconstruction is completed, Sichuan plans to build more irrigation systems. In October 2009, the province set a new goal to build another Dujiangyan Irrigation System, and wrote it into its development plan for 2011-15.
Built by Li Bing, chief designer and engineer, and his son, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System supplies water to about 680,000 hectares of farmland in Sichuan. Another system like Dujiangyan will be constructed by the year 2016 to irrigate a further 713,000 hectares of farmland.
(Reporting from Mianzhu and Dujiangyan)