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Pipeline to Aid in Drought Relief
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A plan to ease dry conditions in Inner Mongolia is under way, involving a 600-kilometer pipeline, seawater, and a desalination plant.

The Xilin Gol League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, has proposed a pipe to channel seawater from Huludao, Liaoning Province, to Xilinhot to help combat desertification and support its booming coal mine industry.

You Ren, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region People's Congress, confirmed the plan yesterday.

"The whole north area in the country is facing a serious water shortage," You said.

According to the plan, the 600-kilometer pipe, made of toughened glass, will be built at Xingcheng, Huludao, across cities including Chaoyang, Liaoning Province, to Xilinhot.

A desalination plant capable of treating 1 million tons of seawater a day will be built at the end of the pipeline in Inner Mongolia.

Storms blown from the league every spring and autumn dump sand in cities as far away as Beijing and Tianjin, making the Xilin Gol League the major source of Beijing's sandstorms.

The region's farming industry is also under threat from desertification, where about 60 percent of the earth lacks grass.

After two years of planning, experts and officials lobbied for the plan at discussions held in Beijing last October.

In January of this year, experts from the Chinese Society of Oceanography studied the feasibility of the project and agreed that it met the nation's sustainable development guidelines.

The Xilin Gol League wants some of the water for its brown coal industry, which suffers from a shortage of water needed for production.

But, if China's national south-north water diversion project is any indicator of success, it could still be a while before the plan is implemented, if at all.

That project was first imagined by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1952. After protracted debates that lasted nearly half a century, the State Council sanctioned the ambitious project in December 2002. It plans to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water annually from the Yangtze River, China's longest river, through eastern, middle and western routes to relieve water shortages in north China by 2050.

(China Daily March 7, 2007)

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