Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, December 27, 2002

China Launches Gigantic Water Diversion Project

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji announced on Friday the start of a gigantic project to divert water from the Yangtze River to the country's thirsty northern areas. The project will be the biggest of its kind in the world involving US$59 billion.


Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji announced on Friday the start of a gigantic project to divert water from the Yangtze River to the country's thirsty northern areas.

The premier made the announcement at a ceremony held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Involving an investment of 59 billion US dollars, the project could cost twice as much as the ongoing Three Gorges project. Major beneficiaries include Beijing and Tianjin cities, and Jiangsu and Shandong provinces in east China.

Ceremonies marking the start of the project were also held at the construction sites in Jiangsu and Shandong, where hundreds of bulldozers began working.

The project will be the biggest of its kind in the world and the biggest engineering program in China. It actually consists of three canals running about 1,300 km through the country's eastern, middle and western parts.

To be built in three stages, the three canals will link up the country's four major rivers, namely the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River.

Upon its completion in the middle of the century, the project will be able to deliver 44.8 billion cubic meters of water into the north each year, about the annual volume of water into the Yellow River.

Zhang Jirao, vice-minister of water resources, said the project would significantly alleviate acute water shortage along the Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River, eastern Shandong and some areas in northwestern China.

Rehearsal of eastern water diversion line underway
A small-scale water diversion project bringing water from the Yangtze River to a lake in northern China has been going on well for nearly 20 days.

Started on Dec. 8, the project is taken as a rehearsal of the gigantic south-north water diversion project which was officially launched Friday.

The rehearsal project is scheduled to take about 50 days, transferring 110 million cubic meters of water from the Yangtze River to the Nansi Lake in Shandong Province.

The Nansi Lake the biggest freshwater lake in northern China. To date, more than 40 million cubic meters of water has been transferred.

Minister of Water Resources Wang Shucheng said the project is a successful strategic rehearsal for the construction of the eastern diversion route of the gigantic project.

The channel to supply water to the Nansi Lake is only part of the eastern line of the gigantic water diversion project. Another two routes will run through the country's middle and western parts. The entire project needs about five decades to build.

Lifted through nine pumping stations, the diverted water in the eastern line will mainly flow along the Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal, China's ancient man-made water project which was first built in 605. The rehearsal uses most part of the Grand Canal.

Zhou Zhiqiang, an official with the Huaihe River Water Resources Commission, said the so-far success of the rehearsal demonstrates that a part of eastern diversion line is qualified for diverting water.

The Nansi Lake consists of four sub-lakes, namely Weishan, Nanyang, Zhaoyang and Dushan lakes, all to south of the Yellow River, China's second longest river.

The Nansi Lake and its surrounding areas were once home to 106 species of birds and 78 kinds of fish. And about 150,000 local people lived on the lake.

However, in recent years, the lake and its surroundings suffered successive droughts. In 2002, the area was hit by a severe drought which affected 400,000 hectares of farmland. As a result, 320,000 people found it difficult to get drinkable water and the navigation on the Grand Canal came to a halt. Even worse, the local ecological system was damaged.

Once the 50-day-long water diversion from the Yangtze River to Nansi Lake is completed, the Huaihe River Water Resources Commission expects the basic ecological network will be resumed and most indigenous animals and plants will reappear.

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