China on Friday started building a canal from the middle section of the Yangtze River to a tributary that connects with China's South-North Water Diversion project.
Costing more than six billion yuan ($880 million), the 67.23 km project will divert 3.1 billion cu m of water every year from Yangtze's Jingjiang section to the Hanjiang River, one of the major sources of water for north China once the diversion project is complete.
China's South-North Water Diversion project is designed to divert water from the water-rich south to the dry north.
The central part of the project will divert water from Danjiangkou Reservoir on the Hanjiang River to north China cities like Beijing and Tianjin.
According to research by Hubei provincial environmental protection bureau, without water from the canal the Hanjiang River would only have one third of its average runoff once water is diverted, and the water level of middle and lower reaches of Hanjiang would drop by 0.5 meter.
The canal, which will be completed in 2014, will prevent problems arising such as algae pollution if water levels were decreased dramatically, said Shen Xiaoli, an engineer with the Hubei Environmental Sciences Institute.
The canal is expected to benefit about 8.9 million people and 43,000 hectares of farmland in the lower reaches of Hanjiang.
Once completed the five to six meters deep canal could be used by ships weighing more than 1,000 tons, facilitating transportation of coal from the north to the south, said Xu Shaojun, head of the Hubei Provincial Investigation and Design Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower.