China is endeavoring to put an end to the ecological degradation of its longest inland river, the Tarim, in western Xinjiang, since the central government launched a comprehensive ecological control program for the Tarim in 2001, at a cost of approximately 10.7 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion).
Called as the "mother river" by ethnic people in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the 1,321-km Tarim boasts water resources of 42.9 billion cubic meters. Its valley covers an area of 1.02 million square kilometers.
Over the past 2,000 years, vibrant cultures, including the Silk Road, the Loulan Kingdom, or Kroraina, and the Niya Kingdom, thrived along the Tarim. In recent five decades, the river valley achieved an unprecedented economic growth. It has become an important production base for cotton, fruit, oil and petrochemicals.
In the late 20th century, however, the Tarim River Valley began to experience ecological deterioration, eventually prompting government action. The program hopes to see significant results within 10 years.
The 10.7 billion yuan will go to nine major projects, which are scheduled for completion in 2008. The projects involve underground water development, waterway harnessing and ecological restoration and conservation, according to regional government officials.
With 3.33 billion yuan (US$401.6 million) of the planned investment having been spent by the close of 2004, officials said all nine projects were "proceeding well," and the ecological system of the Tarim River Valley was "out of danger."
(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2005)