Tengzhou, SHANDONG - Authorities will push ahead with pollution control along the eastern route of the South-to-North Water Diversion (SNWD) project, which has sparked widespread concerns over its poor water quality since construction kicked off eight years ago.
A leading official for the office of the SNWD project under the State Council, China’s cabinet, hoped the move would alleviate worries.
Addressing the concerns along the eastern route at an on-the-spot conference, Zhang Jiyao, minister of the office, said, “By the end of this year, key construction of the polluted water diversion facilities are expected to be completed in an all-around way along with an overall water pollution control scheme launching on rivers around the route.”
He made it clear that, “by next year, all the pollution control projects would be put into operation as scheduled to yield efficiency for further improving water quality.”
By then, he said he hopes all the planned man-made wetlands, a means of purifying urban waste water these projects have intercepted, can be completed while pipeline networks linking with urban sewage treatment plants can be built to well match with them for further pollution control.
In the years to come, he said, priorities for control will be given to curb pollution caused by irregular aquatic product breeding, domestic sewage from rural areas and shipping on small wharves scattering all along the Grand Canal close to the eastern route.
Meanwhile, Zhang urged local authorities to keep an eye on the pollution control upstream of the Dangjiangkou Reservoir, the water supply source of the SNWD project’s central route, to prevent pollutants from entering the reservoir or fouling its trunk canal still under construction.
As the world’s largest water-diversion project, the project is to take water from the water-rich Yangtze River in the South to satisfy the growing demand in the parched North, including metropolis like Beijing, Tianjin and scores of other drought-prone cities through its three routes -the eastern, central and western water diversion channels, each stretching over 1,000 km.
The first two routes have been under construction since 2002 and a year later respectively with the last one still on the drawing board.
The first phase of the eastern routes involves building new canals or enlarging existing sections of the Grand Canal to connect river systems in eastern and North China and eventually channel water to Tianjin mainly through Jiangsu and Shandong.
However, “water quality on the eastern route, threatened by many chronic sources of contamination due to industrial boom in the surrounding areas, has long been among the top concerns of the project,” said experts.
After years of hard work, local governments in Jiangsu and Shandong, two provinces with the worst water pollution along trunk canals of the eastern route, have made obvious progress in curbing pollutions, Zhang Jiyao said.
To date, constructions of all the 426 pollution control projects planned for the route has broken ground in the two provinces with 399 of them or over 94 percent of the total completed, according to the latest reports released by Zhang’s office.
Some of them have been put into operation to yield results with the operation load rate in two-thirds of their urban water treatment plants in these provinces reaching over 80 percent of their designed capacities. The rate of sewage discharge standard of their newly completed industrial point source pollution control facilities have also reached over 90 percent.
In the first quarter of this year, an examination found that local water qualities have been up to grade III in 23 sections of the trunk canals or 66 percent of the total monitoring sections planned for the eastern route south of the Yellow River.
Water quality of all the sections along the route’s truck canals in Jiangsu has basically met the standard (grade III), while about half of the water quality along the canals in Shandong was up to grade III.
“In Nanshi and Dongping, two of the worst contaminated lakes in Shandong, water quality has improved from a grade worse than V to IV,” Zhang said, “As a result, some species of fish that once vanished in these lake areas have now reappeared with certain wild flora and certain rare birds also increasing.”
Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection, attributed the change in effort to the work local authorities and environmental watchdogs have done over the last years, during which more than thousands of pollution-prone paper mills and alcoholic production facilities have been shut down to reduce the risk of pollution.
Even though, “there is still a long way to go for local authorities to turn the entire eastern route into a ‘clean water corridor’ and stop their improved water quality from getting worse again,” Zhang Jiyao said.
Local authorities in provinces along the eastern route like Shandong, where the diversion line is to pass through it, must have their polluted water systems improved for grade III, the minimum standards fitting for drinking water after necessary treatment.
“Only by ensuring such a water quality can the entire eastern route be built into a ‘clean water corridor’ as people expect upon its completion for supplying water northward in 2013,” analysts say.
（By Liang Chao 20100705 China daily）