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Hebei water to help Beijing tackle shortage
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A water shortage in Beijing is being tackled with the diversion of 300 million cubic meters of water from Hebei Province, as of 10 a.m. on Thursday.

It will arrive in Beijing in 10 days. The diversion will flow from three reservoirs, the first being Huangbizhuang, and last until March 10 next year, said the Hebei Provincial Water Resources Department.

Clear water gushed out for Beijing via a 18-km-long branch canal connected with another grand canal totalling 307.5 km after workers opened sluices in the Huangbizhuang Reservoir, Hebei Province, on Thursday.

The grand canal, which was finished in April, forms the northern end of the middle route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.

Apart from Huangbizhuang Reservoir, water will also be drawn from two other water facilities -- Gangnan and Wangkuai reservoirs, said Huo Guoli, chief of construction administrative section with Hebei Provincial Water Resources Department.

Beijing has been plagued by water shortages partly because of its geography, with nine years of consecutive drought starting in 1999. It has seen only 75 percent of its expected precipitation over that period.

This drought-ridden situation was alleviated somewhat this year as the national capital had a wet summer, coupled with fewer hot days.

The municipal weather observatory said it had 443.1 millimeter of rainfall so far this year, the most in a decade. There were only three days with the temperature above 35 degrees Celsius, compared with nine days last year or an average of 11.4 days in the past 10 years.

As a neighbor of Beijing and also Tianjin, Hebei, which also sits in the dry north of the country, has been sacrificing itself in order to safeguard water supplies in the two great cities, said Huo.

"Thursday's emergency water diversion is another example to showcase the sacrifice Hebei has made," said the official, who added the province had enjoyed ample rainfall since the beginning of the year.

The local weather observatory said so far this year it had had 509 mm of rainfall by September, and the three reservoirs -- Huangbizhuang, Gangnan and Wangkuai -- have amassed 1.33 billion cu m of water in total and can spare and supply Beijing with 300 million cu m of water.

In return, Beijing will compensate Hebei, the compensation to be paid in three phases.The first compensation had already been paid, said Huo, who declined to disclose the amount.

The South-to-North Water Diversion Project, consisting of eastern, middle and western routes, is designed to divert water from the water-rich south of the country, mainly the Yangtze River, the country's longest, to the dry north.

According to the South-to-North water diversion office, when part of the project is completed in 2010, about 1 billion cubic meters of water will be diverted to Beijing annually.

(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2008)

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