New north-south waterway soon ready for tests

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A massive waterway project between the Yangtze and the Huaihe rivers is set to test its water diversion and navigation capabilities by the year's end.

The project, with a length of over 1,000 kilometers, will be the second major north-south waterway after the existing Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, which zigzags some 1,794 km.

The trial will come after six years of construction, which started on Dec 29, 2016 at an estimated cost of 91.27 billion yuan ($12.6 billion), said Zhang Xiaowu, chairman of Anhui Provincial Group Ltd for Yangtze-to-Huaihe Water Diversion.

The project will benefit some 50 million people living in 14 cities, including 12 of Anhui province's 16 prefecture-level cities, and two of neighboring Henan province's 17 prefecture-level cities, he said.

The project aims to support the urban and rural water supply for the 14 cities, as well as to develop shipping between the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers. The Yangtze is China's longest river, and the Huaihe, originating in Henan province, flows eastward for 1,000 km through Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces before emptying into the Yangtze at Sanjiangying in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province.

Liu Bo, chairman of China Railway No 4 Engineering Group Co Ltd, or CREC4, which is building the project, said it is one of the country's 172 major water conservancy undertakings and has been dubbed the "No 1 Project" for Anhui's infrastructure.

The Yangtze traverses southern Anhui for some 400 km while the Huaihe runs through northern Anhui.

From south to north, the project is divided into three sections — water diversion from the Yangtze to Chaohu Lake in central Anhui, the canal link between the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers and northward water transmission.

The total length includes 723 km of the newly developed three sections, over 400 km of the existing Yangtze waterway in Anhui and the existing Huaihe navigable waterway.

The project also aims to improve the natural environment of Chaohu Lake and Huaihe River through irrigation and water replenishment, Liu said.

The estimated total investment in the Anhui section, jointly approved by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Transport, is set at about 87.5 billion yuan.

Expenses for the Anhui section have reached 78.47 billion yuan, which is 89.6 percent of the total. That lays a solid foundation for testing of water diversion and navigation in Anhui this year, according to the Anhui Provincial Development and Reform Commission.

Liu of CREC4 said the projects his group has helped build are making good progress.

CREC4 builders finished assembling the steel cross strut for a main tower on Qinglong (Blue Dragon) River Bridge in Hefei, capital of Anhui, on July 22, marking another project milestone.

The total length of the bridge project is 1,250 meters, while the bridge itself is 814 m. The project includes the demolition of the old bridge as well as building a new bridge and connecting lines.

It is a double-tower cable-stayed bridge with a main tower that is 72 m high. A cable-stayed bridge is one in which the bridge deck's weight is supported by diagonal tension cables attached to one or more towers. On the main tower, the steel cross strut is designed with a steel structure shaped like the "hovering of a blue dragon", and its construction was a difficult task to complete, said Chen Zihua, a publicity staffer for CREC4.

The steel cross strut weighs 46 metric tons. A 460-ton crane was used to hoist it 55 m high into position with one lift, he said.

Another bridge, on Yulan Avenue in Hefei, built as part of the water diversion project, opened to traffic on July 28, making travel more convenient for residents living on both sides of the Paihe River.

In 2023, the whole project is set to be opened for water diversion and navigation, sending water from the Yangtze to northern Anhui and eastern Henan.

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