China's top inland river revitalized with ecological conservation

URUMQI, Sept. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Zhu Xiangmin sighed with a relief as the second phase of the current water infusion for the Tarim, China's longest inland river, has since late August gone smoothly.

Head of the Tarim River Valley Administration in northwest China's Xinjiang Province, Zhu rejoiced at the refurbished landscape along the middle and lower reaches of the river, which features exuberant diversiform-leaved poplar forests and hovering swans, egrets and other waterfowls.

Zhu said, "The first-phase work of the current water transfusion began in March and has since diverted 100 million cubic meters of water from the Bosten Lake north of the Tarim. The second-phase work, targeted at infusing 150 million cubic meters of water into the lower reaches of Tarim, will last 40 days and conclude in mid October."

"But I hope the process will last longer. This summer and fall,water resources have been abundant for our Tarim water transfusion program. If more discharge channels are dug, a larger area of plants along the river valley will be replenished with water," Zhu added.

As for Zhu, his daily work is part of endeavors to make a long-cherished dream to come true. The aim is to rejuvenate the endangered ecological system of the Tarim River and restore the "green corridor" formed by natural plants along the river valley.

Praised as the mother river of Xinjiang, the 1,321-km-long Tarim covers a total area of two thirds of the autonomous region and supports half of the region's total population. Historically, Tarim was a river with surging and roaring waves which helped create such ancient oasis civilizations as Loulan and those along the Silk Road.

Unfortunately, the environment along the Tarim began to worsen rapidly as of the 1950s, stemming from runaway land reclamation and improper agricultural water diversion.

A disappointing report by the Tarim River Valley Administrationin 1996 showed that in the 30-year-period between the 1960s and 1990s, the mainstream of the Tarim River shortened by one fourth, the "green corridor" shrank from 54,000 hectares to 13,000 hectares, and the diversiform-leaved poplar forests declined 67,000 hectares.

Since China began to carry out a strategy to develop its western part at the end of the 1990s, the Central Government has attached importance to ecological restoration along the Tarim River valley.

On June 27, 2001, a comprehensive water control and ecological conservation program started for the Tarim River with a total investment of 10.7 billion yuan (1.3 billion US dollars). The above-mentioned water transfusion work is a major part of that program.

As of fall, there have been six water infusions in the Tarim River, involving 1.76 billion cubic meters of water. The effort has ended 30 years of drying-up at the lower reaches of the river.

Zhu Xiangmin's colleague, Wang Jianzhong said, "As a result, the diversiform-leaved poplars have blossomed again, indicating they've regained reproduction capacity."

According to Zhu Xiangmin, involved in the Tarim eco conservation program, industrial and agricultural production should give way to ecological restoration in terms of water use. If necessary, some economic benefits should be sacrificed, Zhu added.

Currently, a quota system is being used to restrict water use for economic purposes along the Tarim River valley. On May 1, the first set of local rules over river water control in the Tarim River valley took effect.