U.S. Water News Online
BEIJING -- China has approved a multibillion dollar project
to pump water from its verdant south to the arid north, in what would
be the world's largest water diversion.
Water Resources Vice Minister Zhang Jiyao said construction was
ready to begin and an initial segment could be finished by 2005,
state media reported.
``The south-to-north water diversion project is a mega-project
that is strategically aimed at realizing the optimal allocation of
water resources,'' Zhang was quoted saying in the English-language
The project aims to relieve growing demand for water in Beijing
and other key northern cities that are home to about half of China's
population, and important grain growing and industrial regions.
The plan, based on an idea credited to communist China's founder
Mao Zedong, would build three massive north-south aqueducts to pump
water from the Yangtze, the world's third-largest river. Together,
the three channels would pump 12.6 trillion gallons of water a year
-- enough to fill New York City's taps for a quarter century. Only a
tenth as much water flows through the next-largest water diversion
project, located in California.
In the first phase, Yangtze water will be pumped to parched
Shandong province by 2005, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Yangtze water will reach Beijing by 2010, it said.
The scale of the project has raised questions about possible
negative effects on the environment, as well as the economic strain
it will place on China's developing economy. China says the first two
of the three man-made rivers will cost more than $18 billion, while
the total expenditure could exceed that of the Three Gorges Dam,
which is expected to cost $24 billion.
Illustrating the difficulty of building the third diversion route,
which would pass near mountains on the Tibetan plateau, the entire
project won't be completed until 2050, China Daily said.
Critics say China's leaders have been too keen to adopt a grand,
landscape-altering mega-project when smaller scale water works and
improved management could solve much of the problem.
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