China has introduced a new concept, aiming to "harmoniously coexist with nature," into its management of the Yellow River, China's second longest river.
"The new concept has been successfully applied in the management and development of the Yellow River and it may be of profound significance for the management of other rivers in China and the rest of the world," said Suo Lisheng, Vice Minister of Water Resources at an on-going international forum on the Yellow River, held in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province.
In 1998 several catastrophic floods occurred on China's major rivers, such as the Yangtze, China's longest river, and Songhua River in northeast China. Disasters forced the country's water resources department to re-examine its previous work and shift its guidelines of water resources management from "mankind must overcome nature" to "harmonious coexistence with nature", and from "fighting against floods" to "efficiently utilizing floodwater".
"The Yellow River has an international reputation as a flood-prone river with too much silt, while some of its sections frequently dry up," said Suo Lisheng.
"In a bid to tame the Yellow River nowadays, guaranteeing waterflow from river source to lower reaches tops the agenda."
Since 1991, the mainstream of the Yellow River had stopped flowing year after year due to excessive use of water. In 1997, the river even dried up for 226 days, severely threatening the ecological environment and biological diversity of the lower reaches.
Since 2000, the Chinese government has implemented a water resources allocation plan for the Yellow River, which limits water consumption at the upper and middle reaches in an attempt to guarantee water arrives at its lower reaches.
Since then, the river has not dried up. However, since the beginning of this flood season, the river's tributaries have flooded 17 times.
Minister of Water Resources Wang Shucheng said that in the past, people just let floodwater flow downstream and finally to the sea during flood season, then the river suffered flow stoppage during the dry season. Therefore, to store some floodwater during flood season for use in the dry season is a valuable lesson drawn from past work.
This flood season, the Xiaolangdi reservoir, located at the upper reaches of the river, stored a total of seven billion cubic meters of floodwater for later use.
Meanwhile, floodwater has another important function, to push silt down to the ocean, according to Suo Lisheng.
This year, about 120 million tons of silt, which was originally deposited on the riverbed of the river, has been swept into the sea.
Suo Lisheng noted that it has been recognized in China that water is an important strategic resource.
"We should optimize the water allocation through some economic means", he added.
For example, water wasting was common in irrigated areas in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, on the middle reaches of the Yellow River. Since 2000, the local water resources management department has increased water prices from 0.0015 yuan to 0.012 yuan per cubic meter. In 2001 alone, about 1.5 billion cubic meters of water was saved.
(Xinhua News Agency October 23, 2003)