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Friday, November 24, 2000, updated at 12:15(GMT+8)

Farmers Benefit from Small Hydropower Stations

Construction of small hydropower stations in rural China has brought great benefits to rural residents and environment.

Ganluo County in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China's Sichuan Province, is a perfect example.

The county was one of the poorest ones in Liangshan before 1986. After several small hydropower stations were constructed, the county attracted a great number of investors both from China and other countries, who invested heavily in the mining of cobalt and zinc ores in the county.

The hydropower stations helped raise the county's total industrial output value by seven times and financial revenue by nearly 17 times. As a result, the county has become the richest in Liangshan. Progress has been made in agricultural production, culture and education, medical care and other social programs.

The electrification of rural China by building large numbers of small hydropower stations, a program initiated by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening-up drive, started in 1985. The program aims at helping rural people gain access to electricity and promoting the development of rural economy.

The Chinese government has worked out a series of preferential policies and invested large amounts of money to support the program.

More than 600 counties in China have been electrified by small hydropower stations at present, and 400 more counties will be electrified in the coming five years, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources said.

The source said that these electrified counties are mostly located in the central and western parts of China and the mountainous areas of east China. In the past, many of the local villages had very little or no electricity.

This situation has begun to improve since the program of electrification of rural China started in 1985.

The installed generating capacity of China's small hydropower stations exceeds 30 million kilowatts, accounting for over 40 percent of the country's total generating capacity of hydropower stations. The small hydropower stations generate over 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually for one-quarter of China's counties, where one-third of China's total population live and which cover 50 percent of the country's total land area.

In the past, people who lived in mountainous areas had to cook by burning wood. Today, they use electricity, preventing further destruction of forest.

For example, 1.48 million rural families in Sichuan use 11 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, which means that 40 million cubic meters of timber will be saved, according to statistics.

China's small hydropower stations account for 40 percent of the world's total.

In 1994, the United Nations set up the International Network on Small Hydropower in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, for the purpose of popularizing China's experience in the rural areas of developing countries.

The network, jointly established by 20 energy resources organizations around the world, including the UNDP, the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, now has 130-plus members from over 60 countries.

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Construction of small hydropower stations in rural China has brought great benefits to rural residents and environment.

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