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Animation: South-to-North Water Diversion Project - 5 years on

By Ma Chi, Cao Zinan and Pang Xinlei | | Updated: 2019-12-18 07:00
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China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the largest of its kind in the world, has benefited over 100 million people in the country's parched north by transferring water from the south.

China is a country plagued by severe water shortage - its per capita water resources only one-fourth of the world's average. And the distribution of water resources is extremely uneven between the South and North.

To solve the problem, the South-to-North Water Diversion Project has been built to channel water from the water-rich Yangtze River basins in the south to dry areas in the north.

The project consists of three lines – western, central and eastern. Construction began in 2002.

The eastern line was put into operation in 2013 and the central line in 2014. And the western line is still under planning.

The water on central route traverses more than 1,400 kilometers in its 15-day trip which starts from Danjiangkou Reservoir in Hubei province, travels across Henan and Hebei provinces, before arriving in Beijing and Tianjin. The eastern route starts from Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, and ends in Shandong province and Tianjin.

300 billion yuan ($43 billion) was invested in the project by the central government, and over 400,000 people living in water source regions or areas along the routes have been resettled. The areas fed by the project produce 1/3 of China's GDP.

So far, the central and eastern routes have transferred a total of 29.7 billion cubic meters of water to the North – 3.9 billion through the eastern route, and 25.8 billion via the central route.

The first phase of the central route is projected to carry 9.5 billion cubic meters to the North annually, among which 3.77 billion cubic meters will be sent to Henan, 3.47 billion cubic meters to Hebei, 1.24 billion cubic meters to Beijing, and 1.02 billion cubic meters to Tianjin. Beijing accounts for about one-eighth.

120 million people have benefited from the project, and more than 40 major cities now rely on water transferred from the South. For example, 73 percent of water supply for Beijing comes from the South, and 100 percent of water used by Tianjin people is from the South.

Since the project's launch, the quality of surface water on the eastern route has stayed above level-III national standard, which means it can be used for drinking, swimming or fish farming. The quality of surface water on the central route has been above level-II.

In Hebei, more than four million people no longer drink high-fluorine and hard water. For Beijing residents, the water now tastes better because the water hardness has dropped significantly from 380 milligrams per liter to 120 milligrams per liter.

On top of that, rivers and lakes in the North have seen increased water reserves and improved water quality.

This is the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, which is the largest of its kind in the world and built by hundreds of thousands of workers in over a decade. And in many years to come, it will continue to serve numerous people.

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