China yesterday officially started the mammoth US$8.9 billion pipeline project to transport natural gas from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to Shanghai on the east coast of China.
The 4,000-kilometre pipeline will run from the Tarim Basin, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, through eight provinces and regions and cross China's two largest rivers - the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers - before reaching Shanghai.
President Jiang Zemin yesterday wrote a letter congratulating the official start of the project, which will help satisfy the rapidly growing demand for energy on the wealthy eastern coast as well as boost investment in the nation's relatively poor western regions.
Calling the project an important step in the country's western development campaign, the president said he believed the project would contribute to the improvement of the lives of the people living in the vast Xinjiang region.
Moreover, the clean-burning natural gas the pipeline will carry should also help upgrade the energy structure of Shanghai and other prosperous cities in the Yangtze River delta, he said.
One of the bottlenecks in the development of the delta, one of China's most economically advanced regions, has been the lack of an adequate supple of clean energy.
It is for this reason that the Xinhua News Agency applauded the project yesterday as heralding a new "clean energy era" for the delta, which will be able to say goodbye not only to the shortage of energy impeding economic growth, but also to the pollution from coal-burning industries.
Premier Zhu Rongji also hailed the start of the project. He emphasized the opening up of the west-east gas project to foreign co-operation, which should include gas prospecting, gas extraction, and construction of the pipeline and its auxillary facilities.
Zhu made his remarks when meeting with representatives from the international giants, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom and Exxon Mobil Corp, after they had signed an agreement with China to participate in the huge cross-country gas pipeline.
This project will be the largest ever opened to foreign co-operation, said Zhu.
The premier expressed his wish that smooth co-operation between the Chinese construction contractors and their foreign partners would bring about the building of a pipeline that is up to the highest international standards.
Walter van de Vijver from the Royal Dutch/Shell Group and others said they are confident of the success of the project and will work closely with PetroChina Co on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
Also yesterday, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo, who is in special charge of the project, urged related local governments to be fully mobilized for the project - the expected future economic artery of the country.
The pipeline, carefully designed and built to the highest quality, should give new growth momentum to all local areas it passes through, sparking new ways to reinvigorate the economy and life.
(China Daily July 5, 2002)