Lock gates were opened on Friday in eastern China to send water
from the Yellow River to the largest freshwater lake in the
northern part of the country, Baiyangdian.
The lake has been stricken by continuous drought and has to give
up its nearest water sources to back up Beijing's water use for the
Water began to run out of the Huanghan Lock Gate in Liaocheng
City, Shandong Province, at 70 cubic meters per second. It will
take an estimated 120 days to feed 150 million cubic meters through
a 400-kilometer diversion route to Baiyangdian, said Liu Jing, a
senior engineer at Shandong Yellow River Bureau.
Baiyangdian, which is actually a collection of 143 small lakes
about 160 km southwest of Beijing, has seen a dramatic reduction in
water levels over the past few years.
Last summer's scant rainfall exacerbated the lake's drought,
with water levels dropping below 6.5 meters, an official gauge of
dryness. Levels fell further to 6.32 m in October.
The diversion of water from China's second longest river to the
lake was jointly planned by the State Headquarters of Flood Control
and Drought Relief and the Ministry of Water Resources.
It marks the second time that the Yellow River has been diverted
to ease the lake's dryness. The first instance was in November
2006, when the lake was hit by the worst drought in 50 years.
Liu said that three of the lake's upstream reservoirs in north
China's Hebei Province have been designated as Beijing's back-up
water sources during the Olympic Games, which means that they cannot
reduce deposits to the lake.
The three reservoirs in Baoding City, Hebei -- Wangkuai,
Xidayang and Angezhuang -- are responsible for 300 million cubic
meters of back-up water supply to Beijing. Their combined reserves
were 467 million cubic meters this winter, or 37.8 percent less
than a normal year, because of drought, said Liu.
Baiyangdian, dubbed the "Pearl of North China" is essential to
conserve water for the North China Plain. The lake has depended on
reservoir water replenishments since 1992. The marshy lake has a
total surface area of about 366 square kilometers.
(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)