Investment helps drought struggle

09:03, February 21, 2011      

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Jiang Daming, governor of East China's Shandong province, is busy fighting the drought these days and urging his staff to spare no effort in bringing relief to local farmers.

As of Friday, Shandong, China's second-biggest wheat producer, had only seen 18.1 millimeters of precipitation since September, meaning it is suffering the most severe drought for six decades.

The lingering dry spell, if it continues, is likely to affect the summer harvest, which accounts for half of the province's annual grain output, according to the provincial government.

To relieve the drought, some 1.05 billion cubic meters of water has been diverted from the Yellow River to Shandong's reservoirs, large and small, from where it will be used for irrigation.

Jiang said the solution was only possible because the province used its strength and financial resources in recent years to repair all of its reservoirs - a target it achieved three years ahead of other provinces.

A total of 1.25 billion yuan ($190 million) has been spent on water conservancy projects in the province - including the dredging of 23,000 kilometers of water channels and the repair or digging of 37,000 motor-pumped wells.

"It is why I am able to sit here and talk with you," he said. "The past hardship has finally paid off. Otherwise, I would be outside irrigating the fields."

The province is now digging more than 25,000 wells that will be finished by the end of March to ensure there is enough drinking water for residents in drought-hit areas.

During the next five years, the government plans to shift its investment focus from water conservancy projects to improving people's livelihoods, Jiang said.

Last year, 51 percent of Shandong's fiscal expenditure, or 211.51 billion yuan, was used to improve people's livelihoods. It was an increase of 6.2 percent on the amount spent in 2005.

The money was used to fund projects that improved people's living conditions, he said, and ensure more people are covered by the medical care system as well as support elderly people in rural areas.

Jiang said the province's ultimate target is to enrich its people and the next five years will be crucial.

"Shandong has registered sound development during the past five years," he said. "This has laid a solid base for the province's next five years."

By Zhao Ruixue and Ju Chuanjiang, China Daily

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