ZHENGZHOU -- A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Sunday as construction
began on a pair of tunnels -- part of the massive south-to-north water diversion
project -- that will traverse the Yellow River and bring Yangtze River water all
the way to Beijing.
The two tunnels will be 4,250 meters long and have a diameter of seven
meters. They will pass underneath the Yellow River to the west of Zhengzhou, the
provincial capital of Henan Province, according to builders.
One of the two tunnels is scheduled to be finished in March 2009.
In 2002, the Chinese government approved the south-to-north water diversion
project which aims to relieve severe water shortages in parched northern areas.
The project will divert water from the Yangtze River, China's longest river,
to the thirsty north of the country. Three routes are planned -- eastern, middle
Construction has already begun on the eastern and middle routes, with
a total investment of 200 billion yuan (US$26 billion).
The more expensive middle route carrying water from the Yangtze
to Beijing will cost 137 billion yuan (about US$18 billion).
Its eastern route will divert water from the lower reaches of the Yellow
River to north China's Tianjin Municipality.
The western route, still on the drawing boards, is expected to divert water
from the upper reaches of the Yangtze to thirsty northwestern areas.