Across China: 2,000-year-old world-heritage irrigation canal continues service

Culture 12

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YINCHUAN, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Each morning, amateur cyclist Cui Yue rides his bicycle along the Tanglai Canal in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, to enjoy the picturesque natural sceneries.

Born and raised in the city, 68-year-old Cui said cycling along the canal allows him to experience the city's improving ecology after several waterfront parks were built in recent years.

The over-2,000-year-old canal that Cui frequents was built during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD). It aimed at bringing the Yellow River water to present-day Ningxia and helping turn the region with tracts of deserts into arable land.

The canal was included in the World Heritage Irrigation Structures in 2017. Through the ages, it is still functioning as an ecological corridor and is the largest naturally flowing trunk canal in the Yellow River irrigation area.

Along the canal's 75-km section running through urban Yinchuan, several parks have been built with walking and cycling routes, contributing to the city's expanding green space mapped out for public leisure.

In the city's rural areas, the canal is a water source for farms and wetlands, playing a role in agricultural development and ecological protection. It is also one of the water sources for wetlands and a large artificial lake, which have become habitats for hundreds of migratory bird species.

Apart from Yinchuan, the 314 km-long canal runs through two other cities and nine counties and irrigates over 1 million mu (about 66,667 hectares) of farmland in 175 villages.

Passing through the Manda Bridge Dam some 80 km north of Yinchuan, the canal irrigates a massive farm of over 500,000 mu. "It used to be a barren saline-alkali land. Now with the water supply from the canal, it has turned into green farmland," said Qin Zhiqi, a technician working in the canal's irrigation system.

At a rural ecological experimental area named "Rice-Fish Space" in Helan County, Yinchuan, the canal irrigates 3,600 mu of rice paddies and ditches for fish and crab breeding.

"The water from the canal feeds the rice fields, the vegetable greenhouses, and fish and crabs ponds in a cycling way. It is a vivid practice of high-quality, green, and scientific development of modern agriculture," said Zhao Kai, the manager of the experimental area.

Thanks to technological innovations, water-saving measures, and environmental protection, the water volume in Tanglai Canal has increased about fivefold to 1 billion cubic meters in the past few years, irrigating farmland for 185 days a year, data showed.

"Tanglai Canal is a great ancient water conservancy project in Ningxia, which still benefits local people more than 2,000 years later," said Cui. "The ancient canal will inject more vitality into the agricultural and ecological development of cities along it." ■

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