BEIJING, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Planting and irrigation are becoming easier for farmer Hou Wenzhang in Yingpantai Village in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as a drip irrigation system has been built in the area.
The 61-year-old Hou, however, often recalls the hard times when he and his fellow villagers could not find enough water to irrigate farmlands.
"The corn output of my farmland was merely 400 kg per mu (about 0.067 hectare) four years ago due to water shortage," said Hou who has been toiling on farmland for decades, adding that the output today increases by half thanks to drip irrigation pipes.
Hou's ten-mu field has been covered with the drip irrigation pipes that water the field every four hours.
The system uses water in an efficient way and saves labor. "I don't need to be in the farmland all the time," Hou said.
The central part of the Muslim-inhabited region is one of China's most drought-stricken areas, with 760,000 of the 1.36 million rural population having inadequate access to drinking water.
In March 2008, a proposal suggesting that the government build a water conservation irrigation project in the region was submitted by deputies of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) in Ningxia to the NPC, the country's top legislature.
NPC Deputy Yuan Jinlin, also director of the Ningxia Development and Reform Commission, said the regional poverty is rooted in water shortage.
"Water was such a luxury in the region that people used to lock their water cellars before going out," Yuan said.
Lu Xinping, another national lawmaker and a middle school teacher in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, recalled that "local farmers used to toil on irrigation, but water was not used efficiently and crops did not grow well."
An official with the Ningxia regional people's congress said that many of the 10th NPC deputies from Ningxia, with a term from 2003 to 2007, and the 11th NPC deputies, who serve their lawmaking duty from 2008, worked on the proposal.
The 10th NPC deputies made many field studies for the proposal, discussed it and revised it, while the 11th NPC deputies further revised and submitted the proposal to the top legislature.
The proposal was considered by the NPC Standing Committee and passed to the Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the State Council office on poverty relief.
The top legislature urged the ministries to respond to the proposal.
The ministries decided to build a highly-efficient irrigation system that would cover 1.15 million mu in five years in central Ningxia, with an investment of 1.12 billion yuan (178 million U.S. dollars).
By the end of 2011, the irrigation system covered 1.09 million mu of farmland. More than 200,000 local villagers, including Hou, benefit from the project.
Li Zhenqi, a farm irrigation official in Ningxia, said under the conservation project, water consumed per mu was only one fifth that of conventional methods.
Yuan said in recent years, national lawmakers from Ningxia submitted several proposals on water shortage, and the national legislature asked related ministries to help tackle those problems.
The people's congress system is the fundamental political system in China, which has more than 2.7 million lawmakers at various levels, who are elected by respective constituencies, directly or indirectly.
Lawmakers usually learn about the most pressing needs of the people as well as national urgencies.
They push forward stipulation and implementation of national and local policies, through conducting field studies, collecting public opinions and submitting motions and suggestions.
During the fourth session of the 11th NPC in March 2011, NPC deputies submitted 8,043 proposals, six percent more than that the previous year.
After that session, the NPC Standing Committee passed the proposals to 177 governmental departments and closely monitored the handling of the proposals.
Jiang Jian, head of Qufu Hospital in Shandong Province, has been a national lawmaker for almost 25 years. She has put forward more than 1,000 proposals, many of which have been carried out.
"I've not had one day off since becoming a legislator. In addition to performing my duty as a hospital head, I have devoted all my spare time to be a national lawmaker," Jiang said.
Her "masterpieces" include a proposal in 2009 on a nationwide food safety inspection after a few food scandals dampened consumers' confidence. The proposal was immediately adopted that year.
Sources with the top legislature said that proposals concerning food safety had been raised by more than 1,000 lawmakers of the 10th NPC from 2003 to 2007.
The national legislature adopted the Law on Food Safety in 2009, and the State Council, or the cabinet, set up a food safety commission for supervision.
"Chinese lawmakers are different from parliament members in many other countries," an official working for the national legislature said. "Lawmakers in this country work part time."
Lu Xinping, a national lawmaker who has been an English teacher for 27 years in the Shuanglai Middle School of Yinchuan, has submitted many proposals on education issues, including one calling for repairing and strengthening rural school buildings in Ningxia, which was also immediately adopted.
Hu Xiaoyan, the first migrant worker to be elected as a national lawmaker in 2008, has kept raising proposals on improving migrants' living and training conditions and their kids' education.
Proposals submitted by her and other lawmakers with similar backgrounds were reflected in the government work reports of recent years, as measures on ensuring migrant workers' employment, social insurance and other interests have been written into the work reports.