A Turpan City official told China.org.cn yesterday that the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region decided last week to invest 250 million yuan (US$30.2 million) to protect and restore karez underground irrigation systems.
Zhou Wei, head of the city’s Publicity Department, said the Karez Protection Planning Report was approved by the region’s Development and Reform Commission and the investment will be used to reinforce 276 karezes, maintain 115 and restore 89.
Karezes are hand-dug interconnecting wells and channels that have been used in Xinjiang for over 2,000 years. They usually have a shaft, an underground channel, a ground channel and a small water storage pond. Their structure helps prevent evaporation in the scorching heat of the region.
Xinjiang has 1,600 karezes, 1,100 in Turpan and many of the rest in Hami. They turned Turpan from a dry basin into a land of grapes, grape production being 610,800 tons in 2004, despite low rainfall (16 mm each year).
There are three theories about the origins of karezes in Xinjiang, according to a local tour guide named Ma: that they were created by local people, imported from Persia or learned from central China.
Turpan is a three-hour drive away from the regional capital of Urumqi, to the east of the Tianshan mountain range.
It was the second leg of a media tour marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the region.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Guo Xiaohong July 19, 2005)