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Diversion to Relieve Thirsty Province
Water lilies, reeds and other marshy plants in the Weishan Lake will not have a thirsty winter after water started being transferred from China's largest river, the Yangtze, on Sunday.

"The 50-day-long diversion of a total of 110 million cubic metres of water will help to protect biological species and the ecosystem of the whole southern four lakes - Weishan Lake, Zhaoyang Lake, Dushan Lake and Nanyang Lake - in southern part of East China's Shandong Province," said Vice-Minister of Water Resources Zhai Haohui, at Sunday's startup ceremony.

According to the vice-minister, the diversion, from Jiangdu in Jiangsu Province and other eight pumping stations to the lakes, is also part of the eastern division of the country's multi-billion-dollar project to divert water from southern China to quench the thirst of its northern neighbours.

"The transfer is serving as a rehearsal of the mammoth project, part of which will start by the end of the year," he added.

The Southern Four Lakes is the largest freshwater lake in North China, as well as an important biological protection area. This year Shandong Province suffered its worst drought in the past 100 years. The four lakes held a meagre 20 million cubic metres in late October, compared with the 1.2 billion during the same period last year.

The dried-up lakes have heavily affected local economic development areas, which lie among the cities of Jining, Heze and Zaozhuang in southern Shandong. Some biological species are also facing extinction.

In late October, Shandong received more than 800 million cubic metres of water from the upper reaches of Yellow River, the country's second largest.

Statistics from the provincial water resources department say that 50 million cubic metres of water, also mainly for ecological protection, was diverted to the Southern Four Lakes at the time. However, only 10 million cubic metres of water remained by last week.

The largest of the four lakes, Weishan Lake, the home of more than 100 kinds of marsh plants and 59 types of birds, had almost dried up.

In order to protect the ecosystem of the four lakes, the central government has called for no more water to be taken from the lakes until next year's flood season.

(China Daily December 10, 2002)

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