Monday, April 17, 2006

Xinjiang's Underground Great Wall



Only a few days ago, I posted an article on the "Underground Great Wall" of China, a network of wells and subterranean irrigation tunnels which extends for more than 5,000 kms in and around the city of Turpan, in Xinjiang.
The area's specialty is grapes, and many farms have drying towers for turning them into raisins. Turpan's greenery owes its existence to the underground karezes. These underground tunnels rate as one of Asia's more intriguing and historic public works activities. Uyghur and Chinese versions of karez technology date back over 2,000 years ago.
The karezes are a net of subterranean tunnels that lead the water coming from the Flaming Mountains across the desert into the fields around Turpan, and make possible the miracle of this fertile oasis in the middle of the desert. It is considered one of the most amazing ancient engineering works in China after the Great Wall.

Now the good news is that Xinjiang is to invest heavily in saving Kaner well (karezes).

A recent article from ChinaNews states that
"...as the most ancient way for local people to get water and with a history of 2,000 years, the underground irrigation project is viewed by local residents as the most important project in their daily life.

However, in recent years, as the underground water capacity decreases year by year in Xinjiang and there is an over-exploitation of the underground water, many parts of the Kaner well become dry gradually. The number of Kaner wells that contain water reduces from 1,800 at most to the present 600.

According to historical record, the Kaner well used to extend as much as 5,000 kilometers, and was one of the three outstanding ancient projects in China together with the Great Wall and the Great Canal.

Since the 1960s, the number of Kaner wells decreased drastically, with some 20 wells disappearing every year on average. Statistics show that fifty years ago, there were about 1,700-1,800 Kaner wells in Xinjiang which could supply some 700 million cubic meters of water every year and irrigate 360,000 mu of farmlands. Among all those dried wells at present, only 200 of them can be restored with human effort.

The Xinjiang local authority plans to invest a total of 250 million yuan over the next nine years to the protection and restoration work of the Kaner well. Some 20 million yuan are already put to use this year. Meanwhile, the Xinjiang Kaner Well Protection and Utilization Program Report has been approved by government, in which some 391 Kaner wells will be put under protection at first stage, with 276 of them being solidified and a hundred of others being maintained.

As to the saying that the Kaner well will disappear 20 years later, experts say it is only a prediction. By the nature law of "survival of the fittest," the existing Kaner wells have survived the most severe natural conditions."

source ChinaNews
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