China's Fujian province starts supplying fresh water to Taiwanese county of Kinmen

Water spurts out from two tubes at the Tianpu Reservoir on Aug 5, 2018, as China starts supplying drinking water to Taiwan's outlying county of Kinmen.
Water spurts out from two tubes at the Tianpu Reservoir on Aug 5, 2018, as China starts supplying drinking water to Taiwan's outlying county of Kinmen.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI/ FUZHOU - An undersea pipeline on Sunday (Aug 5) morning started delivering fresh water from Chinese mainland's coastal province of Fujian to Taiwan's outlying county of Kinmen.

Under a 30-year water purchase agreement inked in 2015, Kinmen agreed to import up to an average of 34,000 cubic meters of water a day from Fujian at a cost of NT$9.86 (US$0.32) per cubic meter of water, according to Kinmen County Waterworks.

Xinhua news agency said the capacity can be expanded to 55,000 cubic meters in future and that investment for the water project totalled 388 million yuan (S$77.6 million).

Taiwan's Central News Agency said Taiwan spent NT$1.35 billion to build the 16-kilometer-long underground and underwater pipeline running from Kinmen's Tianbu Reservoir to the coastal township of Jinjing in Fujian province.

The pipeline will provide about 30 per cent of Kinmen island group's total water supply.

The source of the water comes from the Longhu Lake, the second largest lake of Fujian, reported Xinhua news agency.

The new project began operations at a time when cross-strait ties are strained by Beijing's growing military and diplomatic pressure on the island.

It has sent its aircraft carrier to conduct long-range exercises aound Taiwan, flew bombers around the island, lured away members of Taiwan's dwindling band of allies and ratcheted up its suppression of Taiwan in the international community.

Taiwan's presidential office has accused China of bullying after members of the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) voted in a meeting in Beijing on July 24 to revoke Taichung city's right to host the first-ever East Asian Youth Games in 2019.

Taiwan voted for the games to continue as planned, while Japan abstained. The other members of the committee - China, South Korea, North Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mongolia - voted for the suspension, according to Taiwanese officials.

Relations between both sides have chilled since Ms Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party succeeded Mr Ma Ying-jeou of Kuomintang in 2016.

Mr Ma during his term launched an unprecedented rapprochement with China which culminated in a historic meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Singapore in 2015.

Kinmen's water deal with Fujian was inked in July that year (2015) between Kinmen's water authority and its counterpart in Fujian.

The deal seeks to end Kinmen's longtime worries over water shortages fuelled by factors including a shortfall of precipitation, a lack of large dams and a growing number of Chinese visitors, according to Taiwanese media.

Kinmen county chief Chen Fu-hai said on Saturday (Aug 4) the water deal will be followed by an "electricity link" and "bridge link" between Kinmen and Fujian in the future, reported Taiwanese media.

Chen dubbed them the "three new links," a reference to the "three mini links" that opened postal, transportation and trade connections between Taiwan and China starting in 1991.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the top agency in charge of China policy, late last month (July) asked the Kinmen County Government to delay Sunday's ceremony to mark the launch of the water pipeline after the East Asian Olympic Committee revoked Taichung's right to host the first East Asian Youth Games next year (2019).

A national security official told Taipei Times that China is trying to split Taiwanese apart using carrot-and-stick tactics.

Sunday's ceremony is a good opportunity for Beijing to extend its goodwill to Taiwanese after it stripped Taichung of the right to host the Games, said the official on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

Amid raising concerns about Kinmen's increasing reliance on China, the official suggested that more national security measures be implemented in the county, reported Taipei Times.

Home to around 129,000, the outlying island group of Kinmen is located just kilometres off China's southeastern coast and is a half-hour ferry ride from the Chinese mainland.

Kinmen first expressed its desire to buy water from China in 1996 when it suffered from severe drought.

Four years later, Taiwan's Water Resources Bureau (now renamed Water Resources Agency) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs completed a report on the potential impact of such a project.

Authorities from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait started to gather information and exchange views on the proposal in 2002, and the Executive Yuan, Taiwan's top administrative organ, approved the project to channel water from Fujian to Kinmen in 2014.