Press conference on achievements in water development since the 18th CPC National Congress

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Mr. Li Guoying, minister of water resources

Mr. Zhang Xiangwei, director general of the Department of Planning and Programming of the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR)

Mr. Chen Mingzhong, director general of the Department of Rural Water and Hydropower of the MWR

Mr. Yao Wenguang, director general of the Department of Flood and Drought Disaster Prevention of the MWR


Mr. Chen Wenjun, spokesperson of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC)


Sept. 13, 2022

Chen Wenjun:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference. Today, we are holding the 30th press conference under the theme of "China in the past decade." We have invited Mr. Li Guoying, minister of water resources, to brief you on achievements in water development since the 18th CPC National Congress and take your questions. Also joining us today are Mr. Zhang Xiangwei, director general of the Department of Planning and Programming of the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR); Mr. Chen Mingzhong, director general of the Department of Rural Water and Hydropower of the MWR; and Mr. Yao Wenguang, director general of the Department of Flood and Drought Disaster Prevention of the MWR.

Now, let's give the floor to Mr. Li for his introduction.

Li Guoying:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. I am very glad to brief you on water development work since the 18th CPC National Congress. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to people from all walks of life for your long-standing interest in and support for China's water development.

China suffers from water scarcity, imbalanced seasonal and regional water availability, and frequent floods and droughts. This makes China one of the countries with the most complicated water resource conditions and the most difficult and arduous task in terms of water management. The CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core attaches great importance to water development. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping, mindful of the sustainable development of the Chinese nation, has set out a policy framework for water management that prioritizes water conservation, balances spatial allocation, adopts a systematic approach, and involves both government and market efforts; established development strategies for the Yangtze River and the Yellow River; and arranged major water conservancy projects such as the national water network, thus providing strategic guidance and a roadmap for China's water development in the new era. These steps are of milestone significance in the history of water management of the Chinese nation. With General Secretary Xi Jinping at the helm and guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, people from all walks of life have made concerted efforts to scientifically manage water resources, thus solving many tough problems that were long on the agenda but never resolved, and accomplished multiple major goals that affect the country's overall strategic and long-term development and the people's wellbeing. China has made historic achievements and transformations in water development.

The past decade has witnessed overall improvements in the country's capabilities to guard against floods and droughts. We have acted on the principles of "giving priority to disaster prevention and combining prevention, response and relief; integrating routine disaster reduction and urgent disaster relief; shifting the focus from post-disaster relief to pre-disaster prevention, from response to a single disaster to comprehensive disaster reduction, and from reducing disaster losses to alleviating disaster risks," put people's lives first, improved flood prevention systems in drainage basins, enhanced forecasting, early warning, disaster drills and preparedness, and operated water projects in a fine-tuned fashion. In this way, we have contained severe floods of the Yellow River, Yangtze River, Huaihe River, Haihe River, Pearl River, Songhuajiang-Liaohe River and Taihu Lake. In the past decade, the annual cost of damage caused by floods, as a share of China's GDP, dropped to 0.31% from 0.57% in the previous decade. Since 2021, we have seen a mega flood in the upper stream of the Heilongjiang River, autumn floods on a rarely seen scale in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, and a rarely seen flood in the Beijiang (north river) of the Pearl River Basin; nationwide, 8,135 large and medium-sized reservoirs have controlled 225.2 billion cubic meters of floodwater; 12 national floods storage areas have been put into use, avoiding flooding events in 3,055 cities and towns, floods in more than 39.48 million mu (2.63 million hectares) of arable land, and the relocation of 21.64 million people. Meanwhile, we have effectively responded to severe droughts in the Pearl River Basin and other areas, ensuring basic water supply in a year of extraordinary droughts. This year, faced with the most severe drought in the Yangtze River Basin since 1961, we adopted precise and targeted measures in a specific scope and carried out a special joint action for drought relief and water supply of reservoirs, thus ensuring drinking water security for 13.85 million people and meeting the irrigation needs of 1.9 million hectares of autumn grain crops. 

The past decade has witnessed the resolution of the long-standing drinking water security problem in rural areas. Drinking water security in rural areas is a key indicator for eradicating absolute poverty. With this firmly in mind, we have solved the drinking water security problem for 17.1 million registered poor people and a total of 280 million rural residents over the past decade. To date, 84% of the rural population have access to tap water. In this way, the problem of drinking water which troubled generations of Chinese farmers has been resolved. We have promoted the construction of farmland irrigation projects. A total of 7,330 large and medium-sized irrigation districts have been built and the effective irrigated area has reached 69.13 million hectares. In the irrigated areas, which account for 54% of China's arable land, farmers produced 75% of the country's grain and more than 90% of cash crops. This has laid a solid foundation for ensuring food security through our own efforts.

The past decade has witnessed transformations in the utilization of water resources. We have prioritized water conservation, implemented a national water-saving initiative, strengthened a rigid constraint system for water resources, and promoted efficient and intensive water utilization. In 2021, water consumption per 10,000 yuan of GDP and per 10,000 yuan of value-added of industry dropped by 45% and 55% respectively compared to 2012. The effective utilization coefficient of farmland irrigation water went up from 0.516 in 2012 to 0.568 in 2021. In the past decade, China's total water consumption has remained stable. With 6% of the world's fresh water, China feeds nearly 20% of the global population and generates over 18% of global economic output.

The past decade has witnessed holistic upgrading in the distribution of water resources. Based on the overall and spatially balanced allocation of water resources in drainage basins, we have accelerated major water diversion projects and key water supply projects. The first phase of the eastern and central routes of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project were put into operation, supplying 56.5 billion cubic meters of water so far and benefitting 150 million people. The construction of other major projects has started, including water diversion projects such as channeling water from the Yangtze River to the Hanjiang River, a follow-up project for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, water transfer to central Yunnan province, water diversion from the Yangtze River to the Huaihe River, and the Pearl River Delta Water Resources Allocation Project, as well as large reservoirs such as Jiayan Reservoir in Guizhou province and Laluo Reservoir in Tibet. As such, a complete, secure, reliable, efficient, environmentally friendly, smart, smooth and well-regulated national water network is taking shape at a fast pace. The supply capacity of water conservancy projects across the country increased from 700 billion cubic meters in 2012 to 890 billion cubic meters in 2021.

Over the past decade, the condition of rivers and lakes has improved fundamentally. Guided by the philosophy that clean water and green mountains are just as valuable as gold and silver, we have advanced the protection and governance of water ecosystem. We have fully established the river-chief and lake-chief system, with 1.2 million river and lake chiefs at the five administrative levels of province, city, county, township and village performing their duties. We launched the Mother River restoration project, and the groundwater level of northern China has picked up. In 2021, shallow groundwater in controlled areas rose 1.89 meters on average from the same period in 2018, while deep confined water climbed 4.65 meters. The aquatic ecosystem of the Baiyangdian Lake has been restored; many rivers that have dried up for many years, such as the Yongding River, have fully resumed water supply; and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal has realized full operation for the first time in a century. We have brought soil erosion under control across 580,000 square kilometers of land over the past 10 years. The area and intensity of soil erosion have declined, with barren mountains covered with green and flaming mountains transformed into mountains of flowers and fruits. More rivers have been restored, more basins have been revitalized and more rivers and lakes have become pleasant rivers and lakes that benefit the people. 

Over the past decade, the capability of water conservancy governance has improved systematically. We strengthened the management of water conservancy systems and mechanisms under the rule of law, deepened unified planning, unified governance, unified control and unified the administration of basins, and advanced modernization of water conservancy systems and capability of water conservancy governance. The law on the protection of the Yangtze River and regulation on the management of groundwater were released and implemented, and the mechanism for coordinating water resources law enforcement and criminal justice and the cooperation mechanism between water resources law enforcement and procuratorial public interest litigations have been continuously improved. Reforms in key areas, such as market-oriented trading of permits for water use, have been accelerated, and breakthroughs have been made to reform water conservancy investment and financing. Water conservancy investment from bank loans and social capital has reached 238.8 billion yuan since the beginning of the year, setting a record. The construction of digital twin basins, digital twin water networks, and digital twin water projects has been accelerated. There has been a significant advancement in the science and technology of water conservation. 

Embarking on a new journey, guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, water resource authorities will apply the new development philosophy in full and correctly. Authorities from all fields will endeavor and fully implement the thinking of prioritizing water conservation, spatially balanced allocation, systematic governance, and leveraging the government's and the market's strengths. We will focus on enhancing the national ability to safeguard water safety and make concrete efforts to promote the high-quality development of water conservancy in a new development stage and make our contributions to writing a brand-new chapter in building a modern socialist country in all respects. Thank you. 

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