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China Plans Huge Investments to Repair Reservoirs

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China plans to invest hundreds of billions of yuan in the next five years reinforcing the country's small and medium-sized dilapidated reservoirs to prevent large flood-triggered geological disasters, a senior official said Tuesday.

Du Ying, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning body, was speaking at a press conference on river and reservoir management.

"Considering our country's comprehensive economic strength, such substantial investments in projects to harness rivers, reinforce dilapidated reservoirs and to prevent and control disasters can be guaranteed," Du said.

Du said most of the investment in these projects would come from the central government and local governments, while some funds would also be raised from the public.

A new mechanism of ecological compensation will also be established to finance these projects, he added.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Water Resources, China has invested 64.9 billion yuan (US$9.72 billion) in consolidating the country's 9,197 run-down reservoirs since major floods that left more than 4,100 Chinese dead in 1998.

Currently, China has 87,000 reservoirs across the country; most of them were built in the 1950s-1970s using low construction standards.

Most of these reservoirs are now in serious disrepair, posing challenges to the prevention and control of mountain flood-triggered geological disasters in areas with a population of 130 million or more, according to the NDRC.

China's medium and small rivers are considered to be the Achilles' heel in the country's river control systems, after a series of flood-triggered disasters this year.

By Monday, floods, landslides and mudslides in China had killed 3,313 people, forced the relocation of 15.7 million people and caused direct economic losses of 369.67 billion yuan (US$55.36 billion), according to statistics from the Chinese National Committee for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In September, the Chinese central government issued a statement stressing the importance of improving river controls and preventing mountain floods in the wake of frequent natural disasters this year.

Dike building, river regulation, reservoir consolidation, and an increase in the modulation capacities of water resources in flood-prone areas will be given priority for investment, said the statement.

According to the central government' s plans, China will also set up more radar and meteorological stations in flood-prone areas to gain panoramic views of the areas with hidden natural disaster dangers like flood, mudslide and landslide.

"We will work hard in the coming five years to basically repair the weakness of our country's flood-prevention and disaster-reduction system and build up our ability to fight disasters," Du said.

(Xinhua News Agency October 13, 2010)

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