Severe water shortages in north China will be alleviated by a new water conservancy project which will involve the construction of three canals to divert water from the Yangtze River.
Above all, water shortages in urban areas must be addressed, according to Zhang Jiyao, Vice Minister of Water Resources. Zhang, speaking in Beijing, said the State Council has approved the overall plan, which envisages the diversion of water from the Yangtze to the arid northern regions.
Beijing and Tianjin municipalities as well as Hebei, Shandong, Henan and Jiangsu provinces will benefit from the project.
The north-south water diversion project requires the construction of three canals, namely the eastern, central and western canals. Once completed, it will be the world's largest water conservancy project.
The initial work will focus on building the eastern and central canals to facilitate water diversion from the Yangtze in the south to regions in the north. Construction of the eastern canal will get under way later this year, according to the vice minister.
Water resources are unevenly distributed in China, with the southern regions much richer than those in the north.
Beijing and Tianjin areas as well as Hebei, Shandong, Henan and Jiangsu provinces are important grain and cotton production centers. The region, however, has only 7.2 percent of the country's water resources. Per capita water resources in these regions stands at 462 cubic meters, one-fifth of the national average.
The water shortage in the region is estimated to be between 14.5 billion and 21 billion cubic meters at present, and this figure is expected to reach 28 billion cubic meters by 2010 and between 32 billion cubic meters and 39.5 billion cubic meters by 2030, according to a research report.
Long-term droughts and water shortages have led to overuse of the underground water, which has, in turn, given rise to a number of ecological and environmental problems such as the destruction of wetlands, and the drying up of rivers.
According to Zhang, the eastern and central canals will take five to 10 years to build, and will cost 154.8 billion yuan (US$18.65 billion).
Upon completion, the two canals will supply an additional 13.4 billion cubic meters of water to the northern areas.
(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2002)