Issues on China 's Present Flood Defense and Drought Relief

August 28, 2007

Ministry of Water Resources

I. Information of Flood, Drought and Disasters

China has experienced extreme climate this year and there are several features. First of all, summertime north-west Pacific Sub-tropical High is continuously heading west and growing strong. Secondly, the number of typhoons that have landed or influenced China in early summer is significantly fewer while more typhoons landed later with stronger influence. Thirdly, precipitation increases in Huaihe River and the Han River, upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Pearl River, etc while rainfall in south China , northeastern China and area south to the Yangtze River decreases substantially. Fourthly, extreme disastrous climate events, including storms with short duration and high intensity, storms with lightening took place frequently. Besides, the worst whole-basin flood since 1954 took place in Huaihe River Basin and first-time recorded extraordinary floods occurred in some small and medium-sized rivers. Flash floods are reported frequently meanwhile some areas witnessed extreme droughts.

According to statistics, by August 21, about 145 million mu or 9.67 million hectare of crops is affected, and 79.75 million mu or 5.32 million hectare of crops damaged. 139 million residents are affected while 1,098 died due to disaster, and 192 missing. 883,000 houses collapsed. The total direct economic loss amounts to 75.9 billion YUAN or US$10 billion, including 13 billion YUAN or US$1.72 billion loss of water structure. Around 88.53 million mu or 5.9 million hectare of arable land suffered from drought while 76.46 million mu or 5.1 million hectare of crop is affected by drought. 6.57 million residents and 5.15 million big livestock experienced temporary difficulty of water supply.

In general, the floods and droughts depict characteristics of two High-Magnitude and two Serious-Disaster.

1. High-magnitude flood has stricken Huaihe River . From June 29 to July 25, total accumulated precipitation in Huaihe River Basin reached 370mm, 3 times of average level. Four flood peaks occurred in Huaihe River mainstream. Even though 10 retention and detention basins including Mengwa were utilized, water level at Wangjiaba Gauge Station still reached 29.59m, the same with that in 1954. Water level of flood peak at Runheji Gauge Station was as high as 27.82m, exceeding the highest historical water level. Maximum flood in 30 days at Gauge Stations of Wangjiaba, Runheji ect is higher than that of 2003, but lower than that of 1954. A high-magnitude flood which only runs after the catastrophic flood in 1954, has stricken Huaihe River .

2. Flash floods result in high-magnitude of damage. Small and medium-sized rivers in Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces and municipalities have experienced extraordinary floods which exceeding guaranteed water level or historical record. Disaster caused by flash floods occurred in southwest and northwest with huge casualty. According to statistics, death toll due to flash flood accounts for more than 70 percent of the national total caused by flood and waterlogging. More than 60 cases up to three people loss are recorded.

3. Serious extraordinary storm floods occur in urban areas. For instance, on July 17th, the city proper of Chongqing was hit by a 24-hour rainfall of 266mm while the maximum rainfall totaled 350mm at Chenjiaqiao. City proper of Jinan had a one-hour rainfall of 151mm at 5pm, July 18. These events all set the new record. Severe storm and flood had resulted in 103 people loss or missing in these two cities. Cities including Wuhan and Xi'an , were also affected by heavy floods and waterlogging.

4. Serious droughts happen in some parts of China . Both spring drought and mid-summer drought are very serious this year in China . Before June, total drought-hit area once amounted to 224 million mu or 14.93million hectare, 4.5 million mu or 300,000 hectare more than that in the same period of the previous years. Since late June, unusual summer drought took place in part of northeastern China . Sanjiang Plain of Heilongjiang Province has experienced an extraordinary mid-summer drought since 1982. Droughts in Jiangxi , Hunan , Guangxi and Fujian Provinces are quite rare. Total drought-affected area in early August once reached 173 million mu or 11.53 million hectare, with an increase of 32 million mu or 2.1 million than the same period of the previous years. It is very rare that this year's summer drought hit the areas that are prone to rain and waterlogging.

II. Introduction of Flood Control and Drought Relief

1. Top leaders have paid great attention. The Central Committee of CPC and the State Council have attached great importance to flood control and drought relief. President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Hui Liangyu have made several important instructions upon flood control and drought relief and undertaken frontline inspection at critical time to extend solicitude to local residents and instruct on-spot business, which has inspired the morale of people around the country to manage flood and deal with drought. In compliance of the requirements of Central Committee of CPC and the State Council, key officials of Party committees and governments at all levels made command in person, organized carefully in an overall manner, took effective measures to relocate residents, fight flood and eliminate the impact of droughts and flood disasters.

2. Early arrangement has been made. The State Council has held five special meetings to study and arrange flood control, drought relief and disaster reduction in the nation. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu chaired the first Assembly of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFCDRH) as early as on April 5th, then the Working Meeting of Flood Control of the Yangtze and the Meeting of National Reservoir Safety in Flood Season to arrange all the relevant work. He presided over an emergency consultation conference of SFCDRH at Commending Center of SFCDRH before the flood peak of Huaihe River rise up and made the scientific decision to utilize the Mengwa Retention and Detention Basin . He also chaired the national video conference of flood control and disaster reduction of the State Council to organize relevant work. Key officials of party committees and governments at all levels commanded at the frontline and took every effort to fight flood and eliminate disasters. Flood control and drought relief office at all levels strengthened forecast and consultation and timely organized various work.

3. Preparedness has been put in priority. Before flood season, a working conference of National Flood Control and Drought Relief and a National Conference on Reservoir Safety in Flood Season were organized for a concrete preparation of national flood defense and drought relief. An Overall inspection was carried out for flood control and drought relief. Ministry of Water Resources jointly with Ministry of Supervision made public the name-list of leaders and responsible persons for key flood control structures. A training course of flood control and drought relief was held for administrative leaders at prefecture level. MWR also conducted a joint army-civil flood control drill at Yongding River with General Staff Operation Department. Flood control material of 3 billion YUAN or US$397 million was stored before flood season. A campaign of Journey of River Flood Control was jointly organized with Publicity Department of CPC Central Committee.

4. Scientific regulation. Flood control and drought relief offices and water management authorities at all levels scientifically analyzed water regime, rainfall data and structure condition, strengthened forecasting and consultation, took the interests of both upstream and downstream, left bank and right bank into consideration to reduce the impact of flood and drought. The scientific regulation of upstream reservoirs of Huaihe River , such as Shimantan Reservoir, has reduced the flood peak by 90 percent, while main flood discharging canals including Huaihe-to-Yangtze and Huaihe-to-Huanghai Sea have been opened to lower water level at the Hongze Lake . 10 retention and detention basins were utilized at the best point of time to ease flood pressure upon the mainstream of Huaihe River . The SFCDRH continuously held four consultation meetings on July 9th, 2007 and decisively determined to use the Mengwa Retention Basin . The Yangtze Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarter deliberately regulated key water structures including the Three Gorges Project and effectively mitigated flood pressure upon the mainstream of the Yangtze.

5. Structures played effective and remarkable role. The Central Committee of CPC and the State Council have paid great attention to water resources development. From 1998 to 2006, 278.3 billion Yuan or US$36.86 billion was invested into water infrastructure, among which about 170.6 billion YUAN or US$22.6 billion was spent on flood control structures, accounting for 61 percent of the total. The accumulated total investment for key projects harnessing Huaihe River has been 26.6 billion YUAN or US$3.52 billion. At present, a structure system for flood control at major rivers in China has been set up primarily and is capable of dealing with the maximum flood since 1949, laying a solid structure foundation for flood control. Structures for Huaihe River has achieved significant flood-control benefits this year and greatly reduced flood and waterlogging loss. The Three Gorges Project stored flood for the first time this year and alleviated the pressure upon downstream embankments.

6. Close inspection and supervision. Main leaders of disaster affected areas commanded in the frontline and timely organized embankment inspection with careful organization, effective measures, competent personnel, preparative solution, and enough resources. Party members and officials led army forces and local residents to hold on their positions and stay on 24-hour duty despite high temperature in summer. More than 500,000 people watched over the levees along Huaihe River during flood peak period, including over 10,000 army soldiers and armed police who took the most difficult and dangerous tasks.

7. Flood control in unity. During the flood control of Huaihe River , all departments actively cooperated with each other. The flood control and disaster relief mechanisms operated effectively and orderly. Departments in flood affected areas took respective responsibilities and completed assignments with all efforts according to integrated commanding and regulation. The three provinces along Huaihe River resolutely followed the commanding and regulation of SFCDRH and Huaihe River Flood Control Headquarters by putting the flood control of the river basin first, cooperating closely with each other and uniting coordinately. PLA, armed forces, police have played important role in flood control and disaster mitigation, during which a large number of advanced collective and individuals emerged, whose stories moved us to tears.

8. Effective and efficient rescue and aid. According to disaster and flood situation, SFCDRH has timely initiated 56 emergency response above IV category while I category emergency response was first-time initiated for Huaihe River flood. 58 working teams were dispatched out, 1.788 billion YUAN or US$2.37 million flood control defense and drought relief fund was allocated, flood control material were urgently transferred and transported to flood affected area in Huaihe River Basin . Member ministries of SFCDRH also increased input to drought relief. Ministers of Water Resources have headed into frontline of flood control many times with working teams, Ministry of Civil Affairs initiated emergency response to timely transfer disaster mitigation fund, allocate tents and relocate affected local residents. Ministry of Finance set aside flood control and disaster mitigation fund without delay while Marine Rescue Center of Ministry of Communications arranged personnel and facilities for rescue. Ministry of Health sent out medical teams to the affected area to undertake epidemic prevention and disinfection. Meteorological authorities announced weather forecasts and warning information timely. Other members of SFCDRH also contributed to flood control within their jurisdiction. Local party committees and governments undertook effective measures to ensure the affected residents with access to food, clothing, dwelling, safe drinking water and medication.

III. Achievements of flood defense, drought relief and disaster mitigation

Generally speaking, though the rainstorm was heavy this year, strong defense activities were carried out in an ordered manner. Though the magnitude of the flood was high, the preventative and control measures were effective. Though the disasters were serious, the damages were substantially mitigated. Flood defense and drought relief have gained remarkable achievements.

First, the safety of key embankments and reservoirs are ensured. When water level exceeded embankments safety water level or reservoirs' designed water level in some small and medium-sized rivers, Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters at all levels conducted scientific regulation. Neither one site of the key embankments breached nor any large and key medium-sized reservoirs failed.

Secondly, death toll resulted from disasters decreases substantially. In the whole country, the death toll caused by flood disasters this year was 50 percent less than that in the same period of the previous years. Thanks to the exertion of flood defense projects, residents living in the areas prone to flooding were relocated in time, which reduced the affected people by 46.152 million. Due to timely forecasting and warning, 203,000 people were relocated and prevented from 2,592 events of flash flood. More than 800,000 residents were evacuated promptly during the Huaihe River flood, without any casualties.

Thirdly, remarkable economic benefits gained in disaster relief. The national economic loss by flooding is decreased by 12.9 percent than that in the same period of the previous years. 60.788 million mu or 4.05 million hectare of cultivated land was prevented from inundation. 200 cities were protected from flooding. The economic benefits of disaster relief reached 200.59 billion Yuan. In the drought stricken areas, 235 million mu or 15.67 million hectare of cultivated land was irrigated and 14.76 million people and 9.06 million big livestock were enabled with drinking water. Comparing to 2003, dangerous situation of levee in the Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces is 3/5 less, the inundated area in the three provinces is reduced by 2/5, the number of people relocated is decreased by 2/3, buildings collapsed is cut down by 4/5 and the affected cultivated land is 1/2 less respectively.

The achievements gained owed to the brilliant leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council as well as the solid job undertaken by local communist party committees and governments. It attributed to the guidance of scientific outlook on development and putting people's interests and their safety first. It is also credited to the law-binding scientific flood defense, the concept of giving room for flood and the shift from passive flood fighting to active flood management. The improving water projects, non-structural flood defense and disaster mitigation measures and Huaihe River projects have also played an important role in disaster mitigation. Last but not the least, the unity and cooperation among all government authorities and the fighting and exertion of military soldiers and local people also make the achievement possible.

IV. Follow-up Actions

Late August is still a critical period of flood control and drought relief. We are still faced with severe situation. First, September and October is the rainy season of Qingling Mountain and Dabashan Mountain , which could result in autumn flood on Jialing River , an important tributary of the Yangtze River and Wei He, the largest tributary of the Yellow River . The extraordinary autumn flood on the Han River in 1983 took place just at the beginning of October. The autumn flood on the Yellow River in 2003 lasted until late October. Second, typhoons which have landed on China were significantly fewer in number and late in time. In August, they become more and grow stronger. It is predicted that in September and October they may collectively land on China with higher magnitude. Third, local disasters caused by flash floods, mud flow, landslide are inevitable due to extreme weather. Fourth, the possibility of large scale autumn drought is high. Fifth, damaged water structures and facilities in previous flood period are in urgent need of repair.

Under the leadership of the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council, we will be prepared to defend and fight against floods, mitigate and relief disasters. We will further carry out flood control and drought relief responsibilities, strengthen forecasting, warning and scientific regulation, timely transfer local residents, get ready for autumn floods, conscientiously intensify the fighting against flash flood and typhoon and ensure the safety of reservoirs and hydro stations during the flood season, speed up repairing of water damaged structures and prepare for drought relief as so to realize an overall triumph of flood defense, drought relief and disaster mitigation in the whole country.