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200,000 People to Be Relocated in Water Diversion Project
More than 200,000 local residents will be relocated to make way for the construction of the "middle route" of China's massive south-north water diversion project.

An investigation group is now verifying the number of would-be displaced people, who are mainly distributed along central China's Hubei and Henan provinces.

The massive project, which began construction on Dec. 27, 2002, is to divert water from the Yangtze, China's longest river, to the country's drought-ridden north area through three diversion routes.

The investment just for the first phase of construction of the project's eastern and middle routes reached 124 billion yuan (US$15 billion). And once the first phase construction is completed, about 13.4 billion cubic meters of water could be transferred from the Yangtze to the north annually.

To ensure the Yangtze water flows northward, the dam of the Danjiangkou reservoir, water source of the middle diversion route, must be raised by 14.6 meters so that its water storage capacity will increase to 29.1 billion cubic meters, about 1.16 billion cubic meter more than the original storage capacity.

However, the dam-raising project requires some locals to relocate.

As early as 1990, the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee concluded that about 15,667 hectares of land, covering five cities and counties in Hubei and Henan provinces, will be submerged to make way for the dam-raising and about 224,000 locals would be displaced.

But with the increase of the local population in 2002, it was estimated by the committee that about 275,000 locals needed to be relocated, 260,000 of whom were farmers.

Li Changjiu, a farmer in his 50s living in Xichuan County of Henan Province, told Xinhua that he hoped to leave his village as soon as possible because the place is too poor.

"If I continue to live here, my offspring will also be doomed to be poor," Li said.

According to sources from water conservation departments as well as departments in charge of resident relocation in Hubei and Henan provinces, about 90 percent of the locals now living at the would-be submerged Danjiangkou reservoir area are willing to move mainly due to poverty.

Peng Chengbo, an official with Danjiangkou city in Hubei Province, said about 70,000 of the city's farmers now live within the Danjiangkou reservoir area, occupying more than 20 percent of the city's whole rural population. Their per capita annual income was only half the average per capita annual income of the city's farmers.

Liu Jianguo, an official in Xichuan County, said relocation means a development opportunity for those locals currently living in poverty.

Officials of Hubei and Henan provinces all believed that the relocation work for the water diversion project would be successful thanks to the relocation experience accumulated when conducting the Three Gorges Project and Xiaolangdi projects.

(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2003)

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