A six square km body of water emerged Saturday in a lake that had been dry for nearly three decades, thanks to a just-concluded, two-year water diversion program in a desert about half of the size of France.
The rebirth of the lake in southern northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, known as Lake Taitema, was made possible after a total of 2 billion cubic meters of water flowed into the 300 km lower reaches of the Tarim River since last May. The section also remained dry for nearly 30 years.
Xiong Huiyin, vice-chairman of Xinjiang, announced Saturday an end to the two-year emergency water diversion program to protect the green corridor, or long belt of oasis, from disappearing.
The corridor stretches along the desert for several hundred km, serving as a vital barrier blocking the expansion of the desert.
The vice-chairman said 1.3 billion cubic meters of water was diverted from Bosten Lake in central Xinjiang, together with 700 million cubic meters of water from a nearby reservoir.
As water runs in the 300 km section of the lower reaches of the river, the water table underneath the corridor has gone up three to five meters, while several types of poplars covering 600 square km areas along the section have been supplied with increased underground water.
This is part of China's efforts to save the 1,321-km Tarim River, known as the "Mother River" for 8 million local residents in the river valley. The river has long been the water source for local people.
The Chinese government formally approved the diversion earlier this year in a bid to curb the deterioration of the ecological situation in southern Xinjiang.
The Tarim River runs from west to east along the northern edge of the 320,000 square km Taklimakan Desert, the biggest moving desert in the country, and flows into Taitema Lake.
The 320-km-long section of the river's lower reaches, a quarter of its total length, and Taitema Lake dried up in 1972 following construction of reservoirs, which blocked water from flowing into the lower reaches, and random land reclamation.
A lack of water led to the deaths of poplars on 40,000 hectares, a drop in the level of local underground water, an increase in water mineralization, and expansion of the desert area, said Zhuo Gengxin, a senior engineer for the Tarim River Administration.
The vice-chairman said the now-finished water diversion program is the beginning of a five-year project to restore the eco-system in the Tarim River basin.
According to the plan for the project, 28 reservoirs at the headstream of the river will be emptied in 2005 to ensure the annual volume of water flowing into the lower reaches will be no less than 350 million cubic meters.
(Xinhua News Agency November 18, 2001)