Forging stronger shield against floods

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During his inspection tour of two flood basins in Fuyang and Hefei, Anhui province, on Tuesday and Wednesday, President Xi Jinping extended his heartfelt appreciation to local residents for their contribution to flood control efforts last month, but he stressed that the country must improve its ability to resist such natural disasters. The two flood basins were submerged late last month so that the areas along the lower reaches of the Huaihe River and the Yangtze River were not inundated. The seemingly primitive but effective way of controlling floods by channeling the floodwater to a certain flood plain, so that the effects are restricted to that specific area, is still the method of last resort today. As the floodwaters have receded in most parts of the country, now is the time to draw lessons from what has happened, so that efforts can be made to improve the country’s flood resistance capacity. And Xi has hit the nail on the head by pointing out during his inspection tour that the emphasis should be laid on prevention of disasters, rather than rescue and relief work, even if the latter is critical too. For instance, with the advancement of technology, weather forecasts are more reliable and accurate than in the past so people have more time to activate previously prepared plans. Although local authorities have tried their best and no casualties have been reported in the Mengwa flood basin in Fuyang, which covers an area of 180 square kilometers and is home to about 170,000 people, residents were given only seven hours notice to evacuate their homes, and they have suffered considerable loss of property, mainly in the forms of crops and husbandry. Apart from the funds needed to build new flood control infrastructure facilities, more needs to be done to ensure the old facilities are in good condition. It is no secret that some commercial projects have been unlawfully built in dried-up watercourses, which not only affects the rivers’ flood discharge capacity but also puts people’s lives and property at risk. As Xi said, the management of floods should transform from conquering nature to correcting people’s wrongdoings. So it is necessary for the river chiefs and lake chiefs — positions created to lead ecological preservation efforts that are often assumed by local governors — to coordinate the efforts of all relevant departments to guarantee the natural water bodies and related infrastructure are not compromised for whatever reason. Also, as Mengwa has been submerged 16 times since it was turned into a flood basin in 1953 after a dam was built on the Huaihe River, it is suggested that farmers residing in such areas should insure their properties and crops to minimize their losses. Which would introduce market forces to help people recover their livelihoods after such natural disasters. If the lessons of this year’s floods are heeded, the country will be better able to cope with the severe floods expected in the future as a result of global climate change. –CN