400,000 to be relocated for water project
China announced Tuesday that nearly 400,000 people would be relocated to make way for a gigantic project to divert water from the country's river-abounding south to the thirsty northern regions.
Zhang Jiyao, office director of the South-North Water Diversion Project Construction Committee under the State Council, China's cabinet, made this announcement in Beijing Tuesday morning at a meeting on land requisition and residents relocation for the hefty billion-dollar project.
"The task is arduous and urgent," said Zhang, who disclosed that the project would involve over 100 counties in seven provinces and municipalities, and require the relocation of some 300,000 to 400,000 people.
It will be the second largest resettlement scheme after the Three Gorges Project, believed to be the world's largest water conservancy facility. A total of 1.13 million people have been relocated to give way to the 185-meter-high Three Gorges Dam on the middle reaches of China's longest river Yangtze, whose construction began in 1993 and is expected to be completed in 2009.
The South-North Water Diversion Project, first envisioned by China's late Chairman Mao Zedong, aims at transferring water from the country's water-rich southern regions, mainly from the Yangtze River, to quench the serious water shortage in the north.
The project was designed to consist of the eastern, middle and western routes, with an estimated overall cost of 500 billion yuan (US$60.24 billion) and a construction period of 40 to 50 years.
Construction of the eastern and middle routes already began in December 2002 and December 2003 respectively, and water diverted via the middle route will mainly supply the national capital Beijing.
"We must ensure that good arrangements are made for the life and production of the relocated people, and that the living standards of those people will not go down because of the resettlement," said Zhang, the office director, at Tuesday's meeting.
Apart from offering compensation and subsidies to the people, the central and local governments will also support and assist them to seek better development at their new homes, he pledged.
The distribution of the relocation funds should be made public in a timely manner and subject to public supervision, said Zhang.
Officials of relevant government departments in the seven provinces and municipalities involved, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu and Shandong, have been asked to sign a "letter of responsibility" to guarantee the success of land requisition and residents relocation for the project, he added.
The Central Government Tuesday also promulgated the Provisional Methods for Land Requisition Compensation and Residents Relocation for the South-North Water Diversion Project, which came into effect immediately.
With a per capita water resource availability of 2,300 cubic meters, or one quarter of the world's average, China is listed among the countries suffering water shortage in a recent World Bank survey.
Water conservancy experts here predict that by 2050, the South- North Water Diversion Project will be able to transfer 44.8 billion cu m of water annually, equivalent to the "remaking of another Yellow River", China's second longest river that winds through the northern parts of the country.