A tunnel beneath the Yellow River, China's second longest, and related water gates and ditches have been completed for the eastern route of the country's giant south-north water diversion project.
Water diverted from the Yangtze, China's largest river, along the eastern route will flow through the tunnel to the parched northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei as well as Tianjin Municipality, the Shandong Provincial Construction Management Bureau of South-to-North Water Diversion Project said in a statement on Sunday.
Dubbed the "throat" of the eastern route, the 585-meter-long tunnel, 9 meters in diameter and up to 70 meters deep, will divert 442 million cubic meters of water annually.
Construction of the key project on the eastern route cost 613 million yuan (97.2 million U.S. dollars) and lasted four years.
The south-north water diversion project was first conceived by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1952 and the State Council, or China's Cabinet, approved the ambitious project in December 2002 after debates that lasted nearly a half century.
The project, with an estimated total cost of 500 billion yuan, has aroused global concerns over land use, possible regional climate changes, environmental damage, impact on agriculture and human suffering in the wake of massive relocations.
The project plans to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water annually from the Yangtze through eastern, middle and western routes to relieve water shortages in north China by 2050.
The construction of the 1,467-km-long eastern route began in December 2002 and is expected to supply water to northern China by 2013.