Tarim Valley Eco-System to Be Restored by 2005

“It is good that the government gives equal priority to ecological protection and economic growth when working out China’s 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), said Xu Peng, a deputy from Xinjiang to the Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC) which was in session in Beijing on March 5-15.

“By the end of 2005, Xinjiang will have basically restored a sound eco-system in its Tarim River valley,” he told press.

Xu Peng, chairman of the Association of Science of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was one of the first to propose to the central government that the degrading eco-system in the Tarim River Valley should be tackled as soon as possible to avoid any detrimental impact to the development of southern Xinjiang. The proposal attracted government attention and Premier Zhu Rongji approved a related project in February.

Tarim River is the longest inland river in China, and is called the Mother River by southern Xinjiang people. The valley covers 1.02 million square km, and nourishes 8.26 million people, or 47 percent of Xinjiang’s total.

Excessive land reclamation, over-grazing and unreasonable use of water in the upper reaches have led to deterioration of the local environment, especially thirsty animals, withered poplars and parched land, along the lower reaches. As the river is on the fringe of the local desert, desertification is also expanding.

Xu said that initial preparation is well under way, including a feasibility study for reservoir construction on the upper reaches and water-saving irrigation project on the middle reaches.

Yet, to facilitate the project construction, common understanding should be achieved between different departments along the river, including departments of forestry, agriculture, and husbandry. It is also imperative to publicize the project and its significance among local people, who once cut forests for fuel along the river.

Science and technology should be introduced to improve flood management. Xinjiang features an uneven water distribution, with floods occurring in July and August and shortages in other times. Water conservancy on the upper reaches should balance water use between ecological restoration and social development, such as agricultural, industrial and livelihood usage. Vegetation along the river should be better guarded to form a sand shield for the river.

Xu also suggested during the NPC meeting that a system integrating ecology, resources, industries, and economic results be established. As areas along the river are famous for their time-honored history and culture, tourism should be boosted to improve local people’s livelihood and increase their eco-protection initiatives.

(CIIC by Guo Xiaohong 03/16/2001)