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Premier stresses follow-up on water conservancy projects

Updated: Nov 18,2019 09:52 PM

Promoting follow-up projects for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project is conducive to effective investment, economic and social development and people's prosperity, Premier Li Keqiang said on Nov 18 at a work conference concerning those follow-up projects.

A report was heard on the construction of the projects.

Premier Li said that after the first-stage project of the east and middle routes was finished, the quality of both the project and water have withstood their test. The project has helped realize water supply safety and is playing an important role in ensuring water supplies for production, people's daily life and ecological use in areas along the routes. It directly benefits over 100 million people with remarkable economic, social and ecological effectiveness.

However, water resource shortages and uneven distribution in time and space make up one of the major bottlenecks that hinder China’s economic and social development, especially in northern and northwestern regions, the Premier said. Water ecological restoration is very challenging in North China due to serious groundwater overdraft and loss. With increasing land carry capacity, the imbalance between water resource supply and demand will further be aggravated. Persistent drought in some southern provinces also makes urgent demands to intensify water conservancy construction to solve water shortages.

“Our development pattern is up to the water resource pattern,” Premier Li said. "We must plan and promote major strategic projects targeting weak links, such as the follow-up projects of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, with a historical view and overall vision."

It will assist in coping with downward economic pressure, drive effective investment, maintain a steady economic growth and create jobs, the Premier said.

According to Premier Li, carrying forward follow-up projects of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project will further open up the channel to divert water to the north from the Yangtze River Basin. It will help enhance the capacity of water resources in supporting economic and social development while optimizing China’s medium and long-term development strategy. 

Premier Li said solutions should be perfected according to the overall planning of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. "We must pay close attention to the preliminary work and properly promote follow-up projects of the east and middle routes. Also, we must put water conservation before water diversion, cut down unreasonable use of water with a firm hand, and scientifically determine the quantity of diverted water and the distribution to water-receiving areas," he added.

He asked related departments to fully implement their responsibilities by ensuring project quality and benefits for the people. He also called for preliminary work to begin, such as the planning comparison and demonstration of the west route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.

There is huge demand for water conservancy projects, many of which have been evaluated for a long time, Premier Li said.

Current effective investment needs to focus on the construction of water conservancy projects and support facilities, which will help enhance disaster prevention and reduction abilities, consolidate agricultural basis, drive the growth of related industries and equipment, and create more job opportunities for migrant workers, the Premier said.

He urged departments and regions involved to utilize the current relatively low material prices to speed up projects under construction, coordinate preliminary work on land use and environmental evaluation, start the construction of a batch of evaluated major water conservancy projects and support facilities as soon as possible.

The construction work on follow-up projects for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project requires innovative fundraising, construction and management mechanisms, Premier Li said. More reformative measures were called for to solve the finance problem in the construction process, put government's finance in the leading role, invest more local government bonds, utilize development and policy-oriented financial tools, as well as direct financial institutions to increase medium and long-term credits.

He stressed the need to reform the water price system and improve the water price differential system to save water and promote the establishment of a reasonable return mechanism, in an effort to attract more social capital in the construction and operation of water conservancy projects.

In cases where residents have to be relocated, efforts should be made to improve related work and mechanism, the Premier stressed.

Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, State Councilor Xiao Jie, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Bater, and He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, also attended the meeting.