News outlet iFeng was recently granted an interview with Qin Guangrong (秦光荣), who has been Yunnan Party Secretary since 2011. The conversation, perhaps unsurprisingly, focused on the province's continuing struggles to manage its water resources. It also touched on the future of Dianchi Lake, Yunnan's slow but steady infrastructure upgrades as well as trade with neighboring countries.
The following is a short recap of comments and observations made by Qin during the 25-minute interview. It is a rare opportunity to hear an official at the highest levels discuss some of the pressing issues facing the province and its 46 million inhabitants.
Regarding ongoing efforts to remediate Dianchi Lake and alleviate the effects of Yunnan's four-year droughtQin quoted several statistics highlighting the amount of money that has been spent to clean up the lake. This includes spending an estimated 17 billion yuan (US$2.75 billion) on water infrastructure projects over the next decade.
In addition to discussing plans to build thousands of water strorage cisterns in rural areas, Qin commented on seldom-discussed strategies to clean up Yunnan's largest lake. Qin said the goal was to return Dianchi to its original condition. Beginning in the 1980s, serious pollution ruined lake water for even industrial use. Provincial and national authorities have spent billions of yuan and the better part of a decade trying to restore it.
Qin outlined a general strategy for rehabilitating the lake. The first step, he said, is to ensure that no one is currently drinking water from the lake. The second is to continue clean-up efforts on the dozens of rivers and streams emptying into the lake, many of which are still fouled by raw sewage. Qin mentioned the new sewage treatment plants being built around the lake but also outlined a huge water diversion strategy.
According to Qin, due to both the drought and current redirection practices designed to keep dirty water from entering Dianchi, the lake has become stagnant. To get water moving both into and out of the lake, Qin said water from the Jinsha River (金沙江) will be diverted from an area near Benzilan (奔子栏) northwest of Deqin (德钦).
Water will be rerouted 1,000 kilometers southeast to central Yunnan, eventually joining up with the Niulan River (牛栏江). Qin described a plan expected to replenish many of the reservoirs most vital to Kunming and its surrounding cities. The diverted water is also expected, over time, to flush stagnant water out of Dianchi. The water diversion project has yet to receive national approval but Qin said he expects permission to be granted and funds procured by October 1 of this year.
Qin was quick to say that although planners hope to return Dianchi's water to potable status by 2020 he would not be surprised if efforts took ten to thirteen years.
Regarding the objectives of Yunnan's "Bridgehead Strategy"The ultimate goal is to spur economic development for residents of the province, according to Qin. Almost as important is transforming Yunnan in general, and Kunming specifically, into one of the largest trade hubs in China.
Qin explained that Kunming will one day rank behind only Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in terms of imports and exports. He also said he sees the province once again becoming a net energy exporter, sending electricity from hydroelectric dams to other Chinese cities as well as Southeast Asia. Referencing the Sino-Burmese oil and gas pipeline, Qin said he envisions Yunnan soon exporting large amounts of refined oil to Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
Addressing the challenges facing Kunming
Qin also spoke about the Spring City and what he sees as the most pressing concerns facing the city. Many of his comments centered around quality of life issues.
Kunming's ever-worsening traffic problems was the first issue the Secretary addressed. Qin went on to say chengshibing (城市病) — a Chinese watchword encompassing social problems such as overcrowding, water and air pollution and housing inadequacies — must be dealt with in the near term, although he offered no concrete plans.
Finally, Qin ranked "beautifying the city" as equally important to raising people out of poverty. Limiting urban sprawl and once again making Dianchi Lake a tourist destination were two ways he suggested for fashioning Kunming into a more comfortable place to live.