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Flood Control Policy Shifts to Smaller Rivers

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After record floods devastated large swathes of China this year, the country plans to shift the focus of its water control measures from large rivers to small and medium-sized ones, senior officials said.

Zhang Shaochun, vice-minister of finance, said 5 billion yuan (US$750 million) had been allocated by the central government for water control on small and medium-sized rivers this year and 3 billion yuan for next year.

Local governments have been urged to spend the funds on specific projects by the end of this month, with all projects due to be completed before the flood season begins next year, he said.

Zhang made the remarks on Thursday at a conference on flood control in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui province, just ahead of a national conference held over the weekend in Bengbu, Anhui province, marking 60 years of flood control on the Huaihe River.

Cheng Xiaotao, a flood specialist for the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), said flood controls on small and medium-sized rivers in China have lagged far behind what was actually needed.

Following severe flooding in 1998, China made great efforts to manage large rivers like the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, while small and medium-sized rivers, which are mainly managed by local governments, were ignored over the next decade.

"Most of the allocated funds were used for flood control projects on large rivers, but small rivers in rural areas were neglected," he said.

According to figures from the MWR, China has the largest number of rivers in the world, including 8,600 small and medium-sized rivers, which are now undertaking flood control measures.

Small and medium-sized rivers in South China were hit hard during this year's flood season, which runs from May to October, the MWR said.

Qujing in Southwest China's Yunnan province was submerged in June and, most recently, Hainan province has experienced a deluge in October.

Guo Mengzhuo, a senior official of the MWR, said small and medium-sized rivers are currently being targeted by flood control measures, though efforts have been underway since 2008.

In 2009, the central government allocated a special fund of 2 billion yuan for flood control projects on small and medium-sized rivers. After 5 billion was allocated on flood control this year, and 3 billion has been earmarked for next year, the government will have invested a total of 10 billion yuan on these projects.

Local governments have also been required to put up 5 billion yuan for flood control, pushing total expenditure on flood control to 15 billion yuan.

(China Daily October 25, 2010)

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