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Drought-relief Project to Benefit Millions
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On Wednesday construction started on the first phase of a 6.2-billion-yuan (US$77.5 million) water control project in China's drought-ravaged Loess Plateau which is designed to alleviate drinking water shortages for over three million people.

"It's the biggest water project in Gansu Province covering the largest area on the Loess Plateau since 1949. It'll divert 550 million cubic meters of water from the Taohe River, a branch of the Yellow River, to drought areas," said Shao Kewen, director of the Gansu Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

The project includes waterways and underground pipes to divert water from a reservoir on the Taohe River to the drought-hit areas.

The first phase comprises 630 km of waterways, 12 pipe routes and the reservoir with a storage capacity of 900 million cubic meters and an annual electricity generating capacity of one billion kwh. This first phase was estimated to cost 3.6 billion yuan (US$45 million) and scheduled for completion in six years, said Shao.

The project, which includes irrigation and flood control, would help eliminate poverty in dozens of cities and counties in central Gansu, said Shao.

The area has suffered the most severe drought in China with annual precipitation of 300 to 400 millimeters and evaporation of 1,400 to 1,700 millimeters. The available water is 130 cubic meters per capita which is just six percent of the national average.

Local people collected rainwater for drinking during the few showers each year, said Shao. "The drought has severely hindered development here," he said.

"I will set off fireworks to welcome the water and take a good shower after years of bitter and salty water," said Li Junfa, a local farmer.

The 670-km Taohe River has an annual flow of five billion cubic meters.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2006)

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