Responsibility and confidence: Vice minister of Water Resources talks about China's water management solutions
Updated 09:15, 12-Mar-2023
Liu Jiaxin

Editor's note: Water is the source of everything, but also one of the world's limited resources. How has China used and protected water in recent years? In an exclusive interview with CGTN, Wang Daoxi, vice minister of Water Resources, outlined China's water management solutions in relation to conservation, ecology, the environment and disasters.

Significance of national water network

CGTN: At this year's National Water Conservancy Work Conference, Minister Li Guoying pointed out that the construction of the national water network should be accelerated to improve water resources allocation. On the new journey, how important is the work for economic and social development?

Wang Daoxi: Water resources are fundamental, guiding and controlling factors for economic and social development, and the carrying capacity of water determines the space for economic and social development. It is of great significance to speed up the construction of a national water network.

First, the strategic requirements for achieving Chinese-style modernization. China has built the world's largest and most extensive water infrastructure system with the largest number of beneficiaries. However, due to the complexity of water problems, the water engineering system is not strong enough, the standard is not high enough, and the level of intelligence is not enough as well. Therefore, it is urgent to build a higher quality national water network system.

Second, it is necessary to address the issues brought by uneven distribution of water resources. The basic water condition in China is featured as flood in summer and droughts in winter. Water is scarce in the north and rich in the south. With 19 percent of China's water resources, the northern region supports nearly half of the country's population and more than 60 percent of its arable land. It is urgent to build a national water network, promote the balance between water resources and population and economic distribution.

Third, the urgent need to safeguard national water security. Frequent water and drought disasters occurred in our country. There is an urgent need to enhance risk awareness, speed up the improvement of water infrastructure networks, raise the standards of flood and drought prevention projects, and ensure the safe operation of the economy and society.

China's irrigated areas produce 77% national grain and 90% cash crops

CGTN: When talking about the key work of water conservancy in 2023, you emphasized building the "last kilometer" of the national water network and building some modern digital irrigation areas. At present, how modernized are those irrigation areas in China?

CGTN reporter Liu Jiaxin (L) interviews Wang Daoxi on China's water solutions. /CGTN
CGTN reporter Liu Jiaxin (L) interviews Wang Daoxi on China's water solutions. /CGTN

CGTN reporter Liu Jiaxin (L) interviews Wang Daoxi on China's water solutions. /CGTN

Wang: General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that if you have grain in hand, you will not panic. Where does China get its food? Grain production is based on cultivated land, and water conservancy is the lifeblood. The irrigated area of arable land has been more than 4.3 times of that at the beginning of the founding of New China. The current irrigated area produces 77 percent of the national total grain and more than 90 percent of cash crops.

However, we should also see that the overall development of irrigation areas in China is not balanced and inadequate. In order to effectively cope with the impact and challenge of extreme weather on China's food security, the Ministry of Water Resources will actively promote the construction of a modern irrigation system with "complete facilities, advanced technology, scientific management, efficient water use, good ecology and strong security" in the coming period.

Water conservation departments aim to protect Yangtze River basin

CGTN: The Yangtze River Economic Belt covers 11 provinces and cities. While implementing the national river strategy, what results do we see from water conservancy efforts in the protection and management of the Yangtze River basin?

Wang: First, the flood control and disaster reduction system has been basically established, and remarkable progress has been made in the construction of the Anlan Yangtze River. At present, 64,000 kilometers of embankments have been built in the Yangtze River basin. More than 300 large reservoirs have been built, with a total control capacity of 80 billion cubic meters. China has successfully dealt with major flood in 2020 and severe drought in 2022, effectively ensuring the safety of people's lives and property.

Second, the formation of a water resources allocation system has been accelerated, and the efficiency of water resources utilization has been significantly improved. At present, the basin has formed a water resources allocation system with large and medium-sized backbone reservoirs and water diversion projects as the main body. At the same time, we fully implemented the strictest water resources management system. In 2021, water consumption per 10,000 yuan of GDP of 11 provinces and cities along the Yangtze River Economic Belt dropped by 34% from 2015, and water consumption per 10,000 yuan of industrial added value dropped by 43 percent.

Third, major progress was made in protecting and improving the water ecosystem. We have strengthened control over shoreline space in rivers and lakes, strengthened supervision over ecological flows, and carried out comprehensive management of small river basins and improvement of sloping farmland. Both the area and intensity of soil erosion have been reduced. We have promoted comprehensive treatment of major lakes, and the Taihu Lake Basin has been free of black and smelly water for 15 years in a row.

Fourth, the system and mechanism of rule of law as well as the effectiveness of watershed management has been continuously improved. We have fully implemented the Yangtze River Protection Law and cracked down on water violations. A system of river and lake chiefs has been established in all provinces and cities along the river so that every river has a river chief.

UN 2023 Water Conference to hear China's conservation solutions​

CGTN: In late March, the United Nations Water Conference will review the implementation of the goals of the International Decade of Action "Water for Sustainable Development". How is China moving in this area? What plans has China provided for the UN and the international community?

Wang: At present, China is actively planning to participate fully and deeply in the UN 2023 Water Conference to be held at the UN Headquarters in late March.

China has been actively strengthening water cooperation with the United Nations and other multilateral platforms, and providing the international community with successful experience and effective solutions in the fields of water conservancy and hydropower construction, agricultural water-saving irrigation, water ecological environment restoration and protection.

In recent years, China has made positive progress in achieving the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda. First, a river basin flood control engineering system has been basically formed, successfully overcoming regional floods for many times. Second, we are making great efforts to ensure the safety of drinking water in rural areas, making tap water available to 87 percent of rural residents. Third, the irrigated area, which accounts for 54 percent of the country's arable land, produces 77 percent of the country's grain and over 90 percent of its cash crops, ensuring national food security. Fourth, a number of major trans-basin and trans-regional water transfer projects were built, with the supply capacity of water conservancy projects nationwide reaching 890 billion cubic meters.

Fifth, we have implemented national water-saving initiatives. With 6% of the world's fresh water resources, China has met the water needs of nearly 20 percent of the world's population. Sixth, we have appointed governors for the management of every river and lake. The appearance of rivers and lakes has been fundamentally improved. Seventh, vigorously advocate international cooperation in water and share experience and achievements in water project construction.

China's mitigation systems in response to climate crisis

CGTN: The climate crisis remains one of the major global challenges. What kind of prevention and mitigation systems have water conservancy departments built?

Wang: Water conservancy departments have always given top priority to ensuring the safety of people's lives and property. They have set the goal of "no casualties, no dam collapse of reservoirs, no major dikes breached, and no major infrastructure affected".

The accuracy of flood forecasts for major rivers in the country's south and north reached 90 percent and 70 percent, respectively. In recent years, we have basically been able to prevent the biggest floods that have actually occurred since the founding of New China.

Water conservancy projects nationwide have an annual water supply capacity of 890 billion cubic meters. This ensures the safety of urban and rural water supply and minimizes drought losses.

Relationship between modern China and water

CGTN: In September this year, the 18th World Water Conference will be held in Beijing with the theme "Water for all: Harmony between Humans and Nature". It will also be an opportunity to tell the story of how China uses, protects and controls water. What kind of relationship do you think modern China should have with water?

Wang: Water is the source of life, essential to production and the foundation of ecology. In modern China, water needs to meet people's needs for a better life. The people's demand for water has changed from "whether there is water" to "whether they can drink good water." We need to meet both urban residents' demand for quality drinking water and rural residents' demand for clean drinking water.

In modern China, water needs to meet the needs of high quality development. Water resources are vital to the national economy and people's livelihood. We will speed up the development of a national water network and improve the conservation and intensive use of water resources.

In modern China, water needs to meet the needs of good ecology. China's modernization is harmony between man and nature. We must address the ecological problems such as river clotting, lake drying up, wetland shrinkage and land subsidence. Going forward, we will further strengthen the protection and treatment of rivers and lakes, accelerate comprehensive treatment of groundwater over-extraction, and earnestly safeguard the healthy life of rivers and lakes.

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