On December 12, 2019, Information Office of State Council held a press conference. Mr. Jiang Xuguang, Vice Minister of Water Resources, made an introduction regarding Phase I of Eastern and Middle Routes of the South–North Water Transfer Project on its 5th anniversary, and answered questions from the media.
In 2014, President Xi Jinping highlighted that the South–North Water Transfer Project would benefit both current and future generations. Over the past 5 years since the completion of Phase I of Eastern and Middle Routes, the project has diverted nearly 30 billion cubic meters of water in total, directly benefiting over 120 million people. It has been transformed from providing supplementary water resources for target cities as originally planned, to support multiple major cities as a main source of their domestic water use. At the same time, it also provided reliable water resources for the implementation of major national strategies, including integrated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the construction of Xiong’an New District.
In the past 5 years, Ministry of Water Resources has continuously strengthened regulation and standardization of the operation and management of this project, and modernized project management with big data, cloud technology and Internet of Things. The project has been running safely and stably and sustained extreme weather, such as heavy rain, typhoon and cold wave without any accidents or suspensions of water transfer. Water supply has continued to rise in quantity with a steady and standardized quality, delivering substantial and ever-growing benefits in the economic, social and ecological terms, which are mainly reflected in the following points:
First, the project changed the pattern of water supply in northern China, including North China Plain, and optimized the water resources distribution. Over 40 middle and large cities as well as 260 counties and districts in the water-receiving regions have gained access to water diverted from the south, which has become a new lifeline for many cities.
This year, the worst drought in decades hit Jiangsu Province. The South–North Water Transfer Project greatly reduced the severity of the drought, which had not developed into a disaster. Phase I of Eastern and Middle Routes has effectively maintained the high guarantee rate of water supply and ensured water security for cities in the North China Plain.
Second, the project improved water supply quality, and people's sense of gain and happiness significantly increased. Since water diversion took place five years ago, water quality of the trunk line of the Middle Route stood at Class II and above, and over 80% of the river sections along the trunk line of the Middle Route had a water quality as high as Class I. Water quality of the Eastern Route Project steadied at Class III with notable improvement of drinking water quality for cities along the route. In Hebei Province, more than 5 million people no longer drink high fluorine water and brackish water.
Third, the project restored the ecological environment and enhanced the ecological civilization along the routes. The completion of Phase I of Eastern and Middle Routes effectively increased the amount of water resources available for northern China. By replacing over-pumped groundwater to replenish groundwater resources and setting up an extraction limit, the areas of river, lake and wetland expanded dramatically, the lowering of the groundwater table and the deterioration of hydro-ecological environment were curbed and the ecological civilization of regions along the routes was facilitated.
Fourth, the project optimized the industrial structure and promoted the high-quality development of water-receiving areas on North China Plain. Within these areas, the total amount of water use is controlled and management on water use quotas strengthened. We also boosted the development of high-efficiency and water saving industries and drove out those with high water consumption and heavy pollution. Water saving level in these areas became one of the top nationwide and the water use efficiency and profits also increased
Fifth, the project boosted domestic demand and created jobs, ensuring coordinated economic and social development. During the construction of Phase I of Eastern and Middle Routes, over 1,000 construction units or companies participated or involved, and in peak times nearly 100,000 workers were on the site. The project itself, together with industries upstream and downstream, created hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Based on estimation of average water demand of China's 10000 yuan GDP in 2016-2018 (73.6 cubic meters), nearly 30 billion cubic meters of water resources were diverted or newly added for meeting the demand of northern part of China, which contribute about 4 trillion yuan of GDP growth in the water receiving area in the north with provision of high-quality water resources.