Construction on China's North-to-South water diversion project begins

Published: Friday 15 December 2006

Construction on the Henan Province section of China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project has kicked off recently. The us $59 ambitious project aims to bring relief to the country's parched northern and north-western states. It plans to divert 44.8 billion cubic metres of water from the river Yangtze (the largest waterway of China) and its tributaries.

The project consists of three canals, which will stretch across the eastern, central and western parts of China and eventually link the country's four major rivers: the Yangtze, the Yellow, the Huaihe and the Haihe. The eastern and central routes are under construction.

The 73-km Henan section is a part of the project's longest central route that will provide water to the country's parched Hebei province, including the Beijing-Tianjin region. As the country's capital Beijing is greening up for the 2008 Olympic games, the Chinese government has accelerated the construction work on the central canal. Work on the central route began in 2003, with a plan to divert water from Danjiangkou Reservoir (situated on the river Han in central China's Hubei province). In case of additional demand, water will be drawn from the Three Gorges Dam, which is on the lower reaches of the river Yangtze. Once completed, the entire diversion will channel 13-14 billion cubic metres of water to Beijing.

The water diversion from Danjiangkou to quench Beijing's thirst will come at a cost of Hubei, an agricultural and industrial province, which itself is very dry. Experts say the problem might lead to a row over water resources. Besides, water diversion through the central route requires rising of water level at Danjiangkou and diverting water to north. Another challenge lies in getting the water across the Yellow River, which now flows above the surrounding plain due to centuries of levee construction. Engineers have planned to dig a tunnel below the riverbed. But critics fear such interventions might compound the country's current environmental woes.

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