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 文/John Coulter

翻译/王卓妮(中国气象局培训中心)

在中国农历新年来临前夕,中共中央和中国国务院联合正式颁布了2011年中央一号文件。该文件提出了一个解决中国经济发展中的根本问题,正是这个问题导致了中国农业的长期‘‘落后’’,这与其他经济部门的发展相比实属不对称。

中国农业在许多方面,包括种子质量、肥料和虫草控制、农业机械化,特别是高效营销方面已经跃居世界领先地位,然而,一项棘手的问题却常常被忽视,甚至是忽略掉了。这就是水从河流、大坝等主要水源地到实际农地的水资源配置问题。原因何在?笔者提出以下分析。

中国水利工程的今昔

新中国建立的数十年间,农田组织基本是由规划者操作,理论上他们是出于善意,拥有战略性眼光,然而实际上,他们常常严重疏忽了某些细节,这些细节只有密切接触农田的个体才能观察、获悉并有效应对。

20世纪80年代,中国农村实施生产承包责任制后,个体农业家庭的生产力才被释放出来。农民审视市场,选种种植,辛勤地照料作物。如精心施肥和控制虫草,按要求平整土地和耕作,大棚培育高纬度蔬菜幼苗等。而农民基本不能控制的事是农事耕作所需水的输入。对他们来说,主要有两大水源,一是来自天空,另一个是早前所挖的沟渠。如果这些沟渠仍可用且成本合理,电用抽水机打水的井或许就是农民在现场唯一可以管理的资源。因而,作为农民生产所依赖的生命线水资源,是靠周边农场及农民生活的外界输入。

具有讽刺意味的是,上千年以来,中国就将优良的水资源管理视为天命的表现。治洪、利用有效的水资源供给以缓解干旱的帝王令人钦佩,而若治洪抗旱无能则将受到灭顶之灾,这也将引起臣民对其领导能力的非议。公元前3世纪,一项重大工程项目在长江最长的支流上出色地得到规划和执行,项目将5000平方公里的旱地转变为稻田,成为一个重要的稻米生产基地。因而,郡守李冰也被后人尊为神明,他的塑像和关于他的传说比比皆是。流传至今。如今的中国水利工程师们以他为榜样,竞相建造宏伟工程。新中国大坝修建似乎是一种十足的‘‘痴迷’’行为:“三峡工程”达到世界最大工程项目的巅峰,但现在其水资源管理在南水北调工程面前却‘‘黯然失色’’。当然,中国需要宏观规划水资源管理和配置,需要世界级的水利工程师。2008年5月汶川地震发生后,是水利工程师们乘直升机降临现场,,用现代方法处置因地震形成的堰塞湖水坝,减轻坝中水的庞大压力。无疑,水利工程师们是当代英雄。

增产的理论

水资源利用链的另一端是农民,在中国,平均每家农户有数亩的土地,根据节气将适量的水浇到每株植物上,但是否获得好收成,在科学和技艺上都是极其复杂的。

在水资源匮乏的新疆阿克苏地区,温宿县的农业局展示了他们著名的水稻作物的种植期海报,用一种不规则的锯齿图表显示了介于0-8厘米的稻田水层管理的16项干预条目。但这仅仅是该县城的理想。精明的农民都知道,每平方米稻田的水需求特质都未必相同。克利福德·格尔茨(Clifford Geertz)在1964年的巨作《农业内化:印尼的生态变迁过程》一文中,观察到人口的增长意味着活动的增加和更加注意打理稻田的水位,因而,增加的产出就直接和增加的人口相关。国际稻米研究所的乔·里奇曼(Joe Rickman)论证了关于改善水资源管理能够获得双倍产出的结论,有人提出疑问,他作出了回应并消除了疑虑:让农民对所有的投入和劳力的高质量投资充满信心,那么,改善水资源控制直接产生的20%的增产量就是一个恰当配置所有投入所带来的100%的基础增长。理论的推论就是,为什么要在水资源输入不可靠情况下购买投入和浪费那么多时间?

从自然河流,人工大坝到每颗种植的植物的根系的水,在这流水供给链中,水资源供给链的规划存在严重缺陷,缺陷甚至存在于规划者意识观念之中。对于农民来说,田地就是命根子,是主要收入,而事实上,他们生产粮食所增加的价值也被计入GDP。然而,特大工程项目和谦卑的农民之间的脱节,现象现在逐渐明显。

另外一个让人无法接受的原因是:水量配置总是存在‘‘对手’’,最佳的配置需要开阔的视野,甚至是在整个流域内进行,而且水量配置可能被行政边界所分割,在行政边界,人们有意或无意地模糊了沟通交流。

一种认为农田田水从主要水源获取并不需要科学和全面考虑的假定,让农业逐渐被剥夺了获得水的潜在可能性。从2011年开始,这种情形将完全改变。中国最高领导层已经启动了一项10年间投入4万亿元的计划,这将从根本上改善水资源二级配置,特别是有利于治理中的小河流和改善土地灌溉的服务。在这方面,一些国外的例子可以作为借鉴。

德国多瑙河上游就是由一个综合管理计划进行管理,从全盘的角度设计水资源流入的通道和取水的沟管。以农民为主导力量的利益相关者,有权使用计算机化数据,而且,由各方共同作出水资源最佳配置的决定。同时,在作物生长季节有可能做水资源预报,而它是决定种植何种作物的一项重要因素。

又比如澳大利亚在提供现代二级水资源配送系统方面起到了很好的示范作用,该系统让农民大大受益,并将一些干旱区变为粮仓例如,澳大利亚太平洋一侧的大分水岭有项工程。它通过收集有用降水并用地道输送到干旱的西坡,通过修建综合分层通道网,将水引入数百万公顷的农田。

始于20世纪90年代末期的长时间的干旱,影响了东澳大利亚的大部分地区,迫使州和一些联邦政府制订许多缓解干旱的政策。其中一项涉及该国灌溉水资源配送系统的现代化投资影响深远,该政策旨在改进配送效率和减少在水坝到农场传输过程中的水资源的大量流失。

现代效率

提高效率及和适时快速反应的认识推动了高科技科学系统的演变,这个系统由配有测量和管理软件的电子水闸、提供水闸启动动力的太阳电池板、泛网无线通信控制设备和一个由中央控制得计算机化管理系统组成,从布局凌乱的沟渠到现代科学的综合系统的快速转变是在该州政府工程师的推动下得以实现的,大卫·奥顿(David Aughton)率领一个由九名州水务的高级职员组成的团队,建立了一家有限公司(Rubicon  Water),开发了一项世界领先的新型技术,总管道控制(Total Channel Control)技术覆盖许多重要灌溉区,包括古尔本-默里(Goulburn-Murray)灌区——澳大利亚最大的灌溉区,管道总长度超过6000公里。奥顿先生在概括这种转变时说:“澳大利亚的干旱见证了灌溉水价在仅仅10年间上涨了50倍,现高效的投资将带来深刻的经济和环境意义。”Rubicon   Water 公司现在和中国水利部密切合作,在四个省开展试点项目,并着手与更多地方政府开展合作。该公司的CEO 布鲁斯·罗杰森(Bruce Rodgerson)曾说,“我们的总管道控制技术将通过增加产量,通过保证农民在需水时可以获得流向他们农地的水资源,从而使他们转向种植更高价值的作物而让中国农民兴旺致富。”

结语

中国的‘‘十二五’’期间正是4万亿元水力投资行动的前五年,随着‘‘十二五’’规划公布,关键的问题是要注意如何分配这4万亿元。‘‘一号文件’’所指受益者是那些要求供水量精确和供应及时的农民。而农民的受益并不能由地方政府通过简单地更多修建现有同样类型的临时渠道数量来实现。或许,即使是专门负责水资源或农业的地方政要有能力、有远见,或是手握着可以彻底改变水资源从主要水源到农民田地的大范围渠道配送权力的政权集团,他们也都无法实现。这需要一种全局的眼光,或许可以在国家发展和改革委员会的职权范围来协调流域管理和规划,用科学发展观来看待这个被忽视至今的关键性经济行业——农业。

The Number 1 Document of 2011, jointly issued by the Chinese Communist Party and State Council on the eve of the Chinese New Year correctly addresses what has been a fundamental problem in Chinese economic development which has left the agricultural sector behind and out of balance with the rest of the economy.  While many aspects of agriculture have leapt ahead, including seed strain quality, fertilizers and insect and weed control, farm mechanization, and especially efficient marketing, one thorny aspect was neglected, and even overlooked.  This is the distribution of water from main sources such as rivers and dams to the actual farm plots.  In retrospect the cause of neglect is recognizable.

For decades after the founding of modern China, farmland was organized by planners who, while in theory were well intentioned and had an overview of strategies, in practice often failed badly in oversight of details that only individuals close to the action can observe, understand and effectively respond to.  It was only the Responsibility System, pioneered around 1980 that unleashed the productive power of individual farm households.  Farmers adjudged the market, planted accordingly and tended their crops diligently.  Fertilizer application and pest/weed control were conducted with intricate consideration. Land leveling and tilling practices suited requirements.  Even sunshine and warmth could be harnessed with greenhouses for vegetables and nurturing the seedlings in the upper latitudes.  The one thing farmers had little control over was inputs to their farming culture of water. The two main sources were from the sky, or from ditches that has been dug long ago according to past agricultural regimen. If they existed and could be cost-benefitted, wells with powered pumps were the only on-site source a farmer might regulate. Thus water, as the lifeblood of the produce farmers relied on, was an external, peripheral input to farms and to farmers lives.

Ironically, China has for thousand of years treated the good management of water as a manifestation of the Mandate of Heaven.  Emperors who controlled floods and who alleviated drought effects withefficient water supply were admired, and failure to do so, leading to calamities, was a comment on leadership.  In the third century BC, a major engineering project brilliantly planned and implemented on the longest tributary of the Yangtze River turned 5,000square kilometers of dry farmland into rice paddies and a prime rice production base.  Governor Li Bin, the leader of the project, was subsequently revered as a god, and his statue and legends about him abound.  Modern day Chinese water engineers may model their life after him, competing to build grand schemes. Dam building in new China seems an unmitigated obsession, culminating in the world’s largest engineering project, The Three Gorges, and now eclipsed in scale of water management by the South-North Water Transfer project.  China needs macro-strategic planning of water management and allocation, and needs world class water engineers.  When the Sichuan earthquake struck in May 2008, even beyond the 70,000 deaths, there was a much greater danger of the “quake lakes” breaking and flooding downstream where millions lived.  It was the water engineers who helicoptered in dozens of bulldozers to the instant and accidental landslide dams to abate huge buildups of water pressure and volume.  The water engineers were heroes.

At the other end of the chain of water usage are the farmers, averaging a few mu per household, who desperately hope for access to water from ditches beside their paddocks.  The science and art of applying the right amount of water at the right time to each plant for best results is highly complex.  In water-scarce Xinjiang,Aksu Prefecture, the agricultural department of WensuCounty displays posters of the planting season for their famous rice crop, with an irregular sawtooth chart showing 16 interventions on managing paddy water level from 0 to 8 cm. This is merely the ideal for the county, and each astute farmer knows that for his plot, for each paddy square, there are idiosyncrasies in water requirements.  Clifford Geertz, in his 1964 seminal work, Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia observed that increases in population meant increased activity and attention to tending the water levels of paddies, so that increased yields were directly related to increased population.  Joe Rickman at the International Rice Research Institute has a disarming response to questions about his proven results that better water management can double yields: Guaranteed application of the right amounts of water at the right time lead to farmer confidence in high quality investment in all inputs, and in labor, so that a 20% yield improvement directly attributable to better water control is the foundation for a 100% increase from all properly delivered inputs. The corollary is, why buy the best of any inputs and waste time too, when the water input is unreliable?

In the supply chain of running water, from natural rivers and man-made dams, down to the lifeblood at the roots of each farmed plant, there has been a serious gap in planning, and even in the consciousness of planners.  At the high profile upstream end of a giant project, engineers talk of fifty thousand cubic meters water flow per second. And at the vital final downstream end, farmer Lao Bai Xing is hoping he can get 10 cubic meters per mu onto his crop spread over certain days critical to growth.  And it is the farmer, and the value he adds to production that is counted in GDP.  The disconnect between megaproject and the lowly farmer is now becoming obvious and better understood.  The most obvious reasons are that water flows naturally downhill, that ditches are easy to dig with simple tools, and the pattern has evolved to be workable over hundreds or more years.  A more unpalatable reason is that there are always rivalries in water allocation, and optimal allocation requires a broad view, even a whole watershed, and it may be intersected by administrative boundaries where communication is inadvertently or deliberately not well managed.

The assumption that science and a comprehensive perspective are not needed to get water from primary sources to tertiary reticulation has left agriculture increasingly deprived of potential.  The vital secondary phase, between when waterways of 100 meters wide are subdivided to paddock inlets 10 centimeters wide has been neglected.  People of vision and of the right engineering and technical skills are not attracted, and certainly the budgets have not been there.  From the prefecture to county to shire to village, it has often been the least well trained left to maintain old ditches.  New works may have primitive surveying layouts, and the only option above manual labor may be an excavating machine following pegs that were laid out with no broad plan.

Starting 2011, this will all change. The highest level of leadership in China have initiated a plan to spend 4,000,000,000,000 yuan over ten years essentially aimed at this secondary tier of water allocation, specifically mentioning medium and small rivers, and improved services to irrigated land.  The UpperDanubeRiver in Germany is subject to a comprehensive management plan, and channels delivering water in and drains taking water away have been laid out from a holistic viewpoint.  Stakeholders, with farmers as the dominant force, have access to computerized data, and joint optimum decisions are made on water allocation. The forecasts of water likely to be available during the growing season are a factor in deciding what to plant.

Australia provides good models of modern second level water delivery systems that greatly benefit farmers and turn dry regions into food bowls.  Stemming from a primary engineering feat of capturing good rainfall from the Pacific Ocean side of the Great Dividing Range and tunneling through to the dry western slopes, the state of Victoria conscientiously constructed a comprehensive hierarchical network of channels to feed water to millions of hectares of farmland.

A prolonged drought affecting much of eastern Australia began in the late 1990s and led state and federal governments to develop a number of policy responses to mitigate its effects. Among them was a significant investment in the modernization of the country’s irrigation water delivery systems in order to improve their efficiency and reduce the massive amounts of water lost in transit from dams to farms.

The need for efficiency and the knowledge of the importance of timing and quick response drove the evolution of a high-tech scientific system that includes electronic water gates with in-built metering and management software and solar panels to power them, wireless communications for pan-network control and a computerized management system centrally controlled that can supply water in an hour instead of 4 days before modernization.  The rapid change from rambling ditches to a modern scientific integrated system was facilitated by former state government engineers who were first to see the need for change and established a private company to drive research and development.  David Aughton led a team of senior staff from the state water utility to found Rubicon Water and implement a new world-leading technology, Total Channel Control, across  a number of major irrigation districts, including the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District -Australia’s largest, with over 6,000 km of channels. Aughton summed up the change: “The drought in Australia has seen the price of irrigation water increase 50-fold in just 10 years and now investing in efficiency makes strong economic and environmental sense.”  Rubicon is now working closely with China’s Ministry of Water Resources and has four pilot projects in the provinces and set to work with local authorities for more. Rubicon CEO Bruce Rodgerson added, “Our Total Channel Control technology will increase the prosperity of farmers in China by increasing yields and enabling them to diversify into higher value crops simply by making sure the water is at the farm when the farmer decides, when the crop needs it.”

Other country initiatives to modernize channel systems include the dry westerns states in the US and Israel. Yet no other country matches Australia as a model, with the Americans surprisingly lagging in integrated computerized channel management, and the Israelis driven by their harsh climate and security concerns supported by wealth to concentrate on piping water rather than the natural, much cheaper open channelling.

As the Twelfth Five Year Plan unfolds, and with the first half of this niche sectoral initiative for ten years nested within it, critical attention must be paid to how the 4 trillion yuan is allocated.  The beneficiaries targeted by State Council and the Chinese Communist Party in their No 1 Document are farmers demanding precise responses of water supplied by amount and on time.  That cannot be achieved by existing local authorities simply doubling up current practices with “more of the same” adhoc ditches.  Possibly neither the local arms specifically responsible for water or for agriculture have the capability, vision, or executive powers to revolutionize broad scale channel delivery of water from primary sources to the farmer’s plot.  It will take an overview, perhaps of the scope of the National Development and Reform Commission to coordinate basin management and plan totally new scientific development perspective to this critical, until now neglected, sector of the economy.

: http://www.coulterexergy.com/archives/999

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