China will shift the route of the massive south-north water diversion project in order to preserve the ruins of ancient salt-making sites in Shangdong Province.
The 3,000-year-old ruins were discovered around a reservoir in Shouguang City when engineers started to expand water storage for the canal network.
The project is designed to supply China's dry and often drought-stricken north with water from the south, which gets more rainfall.
The ambitious water diversion project will affect 788 cultural heritage sites, according to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Water resource and heritage departments are racing to rescue relics and minimize damage to important ruins and artifacts caused by the water project.
The salt-making sites, dating from the West Zhou Dynasty (1100-771 BC) and Shang Dynasty (1600-1100 BC), were clustered in an area of eight square kilometers. Archaeologists said it was the first time that such a large salt-making site was unearthed in China.
"We have decided to change the original route, in an effort to preserve the salt-making site," said Wang Jinjian, senior engineer of the administration office for south-north water diversion project in Shandong.
China launched the 60-billion-yuan water project at the end of 2002, aiming to move water hundreds of miles from the Yangtze River to Beijing and elsewhere in the north.
Canals will run 1,192 km in Shandong and start supplying water by the end of 2007. The reservoir in Shouguang is expected to be doubled to contain the transferred water.
The canals in Shandong will bypass 88 cultural relics sites, which have been designated for special protection. Experts also said more relics might be discovered during the canal construction.
"It is possible the new route will clash with other cultural relics again," Wang said. "In that case, we will change the route for a second time or try to relocate the relics."
(China Daily September 20, 2005)