A city that is home to the world-renowned Mogao Grottoes in
northwest China's Gansu Province is taking steps to halt
The local government in Dunhuang, a county-level city, has
launched a range of water-saving measures to try to tackle the
Wang Zhijun, director of Dunhuang Water Administration Bureau,
said the use of underground water supplies was being strictly
He added: "Any officials who give permission for opening-up
wasteland and digging wells to take underground water will be
The city was also promoting high-tech water-saving technologies
in agricultural production and increasing the prices of water for
urban residents and industries.
New irrigation technologies have already been introduced to
1,333 hectares of farmland, and a further 17,707 hectares will soon
follow suit, said Zhao Junhua, vice-mayor of the city.
"The water for agricultural irrigation will be monitored and
people overusing water will be charged more for it," Wang said.
Earlier this year, six local water administrative officials were
sacked because of their "dereliction in water administration and
management," he added.
Dunhuang, located at the far western end of the Hexi Corridor in
Gansu Province, is an oasis surrounded by desert. The total area of
Dunhuang is 31,200 square kilometers, but only 1,400 square
kilometers have habitable living conditions, according to Yang
Juncang, a senior engineer at Gansu Provincial Geology Environment
With an annual average of 39.9 millimeters of rain and 2,486
millimeters of annual transpiration, Dunhuang is an extremely arid
city. And water shortages are being made worse by increases in
population and production, Yang added.
According to local official sources, the population of the city
increased from 40,000 in 1950 to 188,000 in 2005, and the area of
developed farmland rose from 8,933 hectares to 23,667 hectares over
the same period. As a result, the annual water requirement
increased from 219.2 million cubic meters to 318 million cubic
meters for irrigation, and 259,000 cubic meters to 1.18 million
cubic meters for household use.
As the city could not get enough water from its two resource
rivers to meet rising demand, it had to take more water from
It has led to the underground water level dropping more than 10
meters in the past 30 years, said Zhai Fulin, deputy secretary of
the city's Chinese Communist Party committee.
A project, which was designed by experts locally and in Beijing
in 2004, to send water from the nearby Ha'erteng River to Danghe
River, one of Dunhuang's water resource rivers, should improve
It will provide 84 million-100 million cubic meters of water for
the city, which will help fight against the desertification threat,
The project is still waiting for approval from relevant
"It is far from enough to try to solve the water shortage
problem only with efforts in the city itself Dunhuang is in urgent
need to get water from other places," Yang said.
China Daily reported earlier this year how intensified
desertification caused by water shortages in the area has also
harmed the preservation of the Mogao Grottoes in recent years.
(China Daily May 18, 2006)