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Water Rule Will Protect Great Wall, Gansu Oasis

Authorities in northwest China's Gansu Province have introduced a new regulation to better manage water resources in the Shiyang River Basin to help curb the ecological deterioration of the Minqin oasis and protect a section of the Great Wall.

Ma Faming, deputy director of the provincial People's Congress Law Committee, told China Daily the Management Regulation (draft) on the Water Resources of the Shiyang River Basin, Gansu Province made clear provisions for the management and use of resources there.

"It is the first time Gansu has issued such a legislation for the management of a single river basin," Ma said.

According to the regulation, which was approved by the local legislative body on Friday, the use of water from the Shiyang River and the exploitation of underground water in the region must go through the local governments' strict approval process. Water consumption will also be restricted.

"The reclamation of wasteland in the river basin is also banned to ease pressure on water resources and protect vegetation. In addition, factories in the basin are required to undertake remedial measures if they are major consumers of water or create pollution," the regulation says.

The demand for water from the Shiyang River, one of the three major inland waterways in the province, has been growing since the 1980s, Kang Guoxi, deputy director of Gansu provincial water resources administration bureau, said.

The excessive use of water resources has damaged the ecological environment, especially in the lower reaches of the basin and in Minqin County, which has witnessed rapid deterioration, he said.

"The Minqin oasis, which was once fully watered by the river, has been turning to desert and its area has dwindled drastically," the official said.

Figures show the amount of water flowing into the Minqin oasis has fallen by some 500 million cu m over the past 50 years. The level of underground water in the region has dropped by 14 m in the same time.

Li Bingcheng, an expert on the Great Wall, which was built in the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD24) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), said the ancient monument was under serious threat from desertification.

Some 220 km of the wall in Minqin County are surrounded by sand and some sections have been completely buried, Li said.

He said although parts of the Great Wall had been buried, they could be clearly seen on aerial photographs taken recently.

"If we do not take effective measures to protect these ancient remains of great buildings in Minqin County, there will be nothing left in another 10 to 20 years," Li said.

(China Daily August 7, 2007) 

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