China's efforts to renovate key irrigation districts that provide most of the country's grain output have been successful, according to officials.
To date, the central government and local authorities have injected 15.2 billion yuan (US$1.87 billion) into the program, which includes the installation of water-saving irrigation systems.
Projects have been initiated in 225 large irrigation districts throughout Chinese mainland since 1996 to update ageing irrigation facilities and management systems.
Farming irrigation consumes about 70 percent of China's total water supply. But only 43 percent of the water, 5 percent below the world average, is used effectively.
"Although there is a long way for China to go in the field, the efforts we have made since 1996 has saved 12 billion cubic meters of water for these key irrigation districts, each with at least 20,000 hectares of farmland," Li Daixin, an official for the ministry of water resources, said on the release of a new report on the issue.
"The water saved can help yield about 11 billion kilograms of grains," said the report, which was released yesterday at a conference to mark the completion of a five-year water-saving irrigation technical cooperation project between Japan and Li's ministry.
The project with the Japan International Cooperation Agency saw computer-based water-control systems introduced into three large irrigation districts, with two in northwest China's Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and one in central China's Hunan Province.
With such systems, water authorities can control the water supply for canals, and at the same time measure how much water is actually used by farmers at terminal ditches.
It has helped reduce disputes over water use and charges between suppliers and users, while farmers' awareness of saving water has also been enhanced, Wang Yanjun, an expert from China Irrigation & Drainage Development Center, said.
Randomly charged water fees from local authorities used to be an issue that not only increased farmers' financial burdens, but also triggered conflicts between the users and suppliers.
(China Daily April 26, 2006)