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Water Diversion Project Launched
Fifty years after then President Mao Zedong put forward the idea, work began yesterday on a massive project to divert water from the Yangtze River to drought-plagued northern areas.

The scheme, which is expected to cost US$59 billion, twice as much as the massive Three Gorges Dam project in southwestern China, will provide water to Beijing, Tianjin and the provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong.

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

The project consists of three water diversion lines with canals running south to north. The three lines, each of which will run about 1,300 kilometers across the eastern, central and western sections of the country, will be built in three stages and link the country's four major rivers - the Yangtze, Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe.

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 that runs through the Yellow River.

Zhang Jirao, vice-minister of water resources, said the project will significantly alleviate acute water shortages in the valleys along the Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River, in eastern Shandong and parts of northwestern China.

These river valleys are home to more than one-third of the country's farmland, grain output, population and gross domestic output, but their per capita water resources are only one-fifth of the national average.

The northern part of the 1,789-kilometer Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal, built 1,400 years ago, will constitute the main body of the eastern line currently under construction.

Work on the central line is scheduled to start next year. The central line will run to the Beijing-Tianjin region and so far the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Hubei Province has been raised so water would then naturally flow northward toward Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, where it will have to travel through a man-made tunnel under the Yellow River toward Beijing.

Construction of the western canal, intended to bring water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze to the upper reaches of the Yellow River, will start in 2010, 10 years prior to the original plan, as it is expected to play an important role in the country's go-west campaign.

(eastday.com December 28, 2002)

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