Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, November 15, 2001

Water Diversion Project Ready for Construction in 2002

The preparation work of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project has met the technical requirements for the start of construction in 2002, said Zhang Jiyao, vice minister of Water Resources.


Water Diversion Project Ready for Construction in 2002
The preparation work of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project has met the technical requirements for the start of construction in 2002, said Zhang Jiyao, vice minister of Water Resources.

The project, which grew from a strategy first bandied about in 1958, aims to divert water from the south to the north of China soas to ensure the water supply for farming and industry there.

"So far, consensus has been reached on all aspects of the project, including priorities, layout, water-pollution controls, water-saving measures, protection of ecosystems, investment shares and water pricing."

Three Routes
According to Zhang, the project will have three water diversionroutes, namely the East Route, Middle Route and West Route, after 40 years of investigation and analysis.

The three planned water diversion routes are designed to connect the Yangtze with the three largest rivers in the north - the Yellow, the Huaihe and the Haihe rivers.

The construction of each route will be carried out in three phases respectively, Zhang said. By 2010, the first and second phases of the East Route construction and the first phase of the Middle Route construction should be completed. Total cost of this work will be more than 180billion yuan (about 22 billion U.S. dollars), Zhang said.

The construction of the West Route, the largest of the three, will cost over 300 billion yuan (about 36 billion U.S. dollars), he added.

The ambitious water transfer project will divert water from China's longest river, the Yangtze, to North China, where water shortage has become a bottleneck restricting sustainable development of the economy.

More than 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion) will be invested in construction of the east and middle water-diversion routes stretching for 2,400 kilometres. The west line is still in the planning stages.

The central government will share 60 per cent of the total investment, with the rest to be paid by local authorities who will benefit from the project. As much as 30 per cent of the State's investment will be loans from domestic banks, "but loans from overseas or foreign banks will not be used, due to their high interest rate," he said. Part of the investments from local governments may be raised by gradually increasing present water-use charges.

Crucial for Water Shortage
He also said the project is crucial for reliving the water shortage, improving the ecosystem and promoting the central government's western region development strategy.

Specific plans for water conservation, pollution treatment and environmental protection have been worked out, Zhang said.

About 42.6 billion yuan will be invested by 2010 to help increase irrigation efficiency, limit the development of high water-consuming enterprises, and spread the use of water-saving equipment.

It is expected that 4.1 billion cubic meters of water will be saved annually in the diversion areas of the Middle Route and EastRoute. Pollution control is focused on the East Route. With the aim ofimproving the quality of diverted water to the standard of Class III, experts have formulated three major schemes to ensure clear water passages, water use limits and water quality improvement.

Among the three schemes, clear water passages are targeted to produce zero discharge of polluted water in the main canals for water diversion. Construction of these passages will cost about 16billion yuan. In addition, 102 sewage plants are planned to be built along the route.

Environmental issues, such as the salty water intrusion from the Yangtze estuary, ecological protection of the middle and lowerreaches of the Yangtze's branch river Hanjiang, and the safe operation of the water transportation system of the Middle Route, have also stirred up public attention during the preparation work.

New Pricing System
In addition, a water pricing system that conforms to the request of the socialist market economy has been established.

According to Zhang Guoliang, who heads the project design team,the charge of the diverted water will combine the fee for the water from main canals for water diversion with that of water frombranch canals and the local water fees in diversion areas.

Zhang said that though the water price will be generally higherafter the project is completed, it eventually will be brought downto an affordable range for urban residents and industries.


China for many years has been considering a south-to-north water project to move water from areas in the South which suffer from over-supply (i.e. frequent flooding) to large, thirsty, drought prone northern cities such as Zhengzhou (Henan's capital), Shijiazhuang, Beijing and Tianjin.
Three routes are under consideration: The eastern route will involve diversion of water from the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest river, to Shangdong Province, Tianjian municipality and the east part of Hebei Province.
The central route is to divert water from the Hanjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, to Beijing and Tianjin, as well as cities along the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway in Hebei and Henan provinces.
The western route is to divert water from the Dadu River, the Yalong River and the Tongtian River, to the upper reaches of the Yellow River to increase water supply in the Ninxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Shaanxi Province.
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