Building a Drought Control and Management System

1. Developing Irrigation Systems

In the early 1950s, efforts concentrated on restoration, expansion, and renovation of old irrigation systems. Storage facilities, including ponds and reservoirs of different sizes, have developed rapidly since the 1960s. In the 1970s, to meet the increasing demand of food supply, irrigation from canals was promoted in the south and well irrigation prevailed in the north China plain. As of 2000, there were more than 85,000 reservoirs of different sizes with a total storage capacity of 518.4 billion m3, more than 30,000 diversion gates of different types, and 3.99 million wells with a total storage capacity of 35.9 million kw. Irrigated land accounts for 42% of total cultivated land (130 million ha) and provides more than two-thirds of the national grain output, 80% of the national cotton output, and 90% of the national vegetable crop (Zhang Shi Fa, 2002).

2. Soil and Water Conservation

Various measures have been used to control soil erosion on 809,000 km2. The measures include terracing (9.6 million ha), construction of check-dams in gullies and small creeks to create usable land (1.95 million ha), afforestation (39.9 million ha), and restoration of grassland (4.3 million ha).

3. Developing Rain-Fed Agriculture

Because more than 50% of the cultivated land area is rain fed, farming has been adapted to make full use of rainwater. Adaptations include deep plowing and soil loosening to increase the storage capacity of the top soil and developing drought-resistant crops and associated cultivation techniques. Since the 1980s, many pilot projects based on indigenous techniques have begun in arid and semiarid regions. In addition, small rainwater harvesting facilities are also being developed in the north and northwest.

4. Drought Monitoring, Planning, and Management during Dry Periods

China's comprehensive hydrological network has played an important role in flood and drought monitoring. The real-time monitoring of the drought process is handled primarily by provincial governments, and the central government closely monitors the development of drought and gives guidance and funding support to local governments to combat drought. Long-term meteorological forecasting is the responsibility of the Meteorological Department in coordination with the Water Department, but it has not played a significant part in drought management.

Drought management has followed the traditional approach, which largely relies on crisis management. This reactive approach has been ineffective in responding to drought, and the government has recently initiated a nationwide project, Strategy on Drought Management, to cope with the problem. A number of pilot projects on risk management are being implemented in several provinces.

Continue reading here: Improving Water Use Efficiency

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