Construction of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, China's most ambitious effort to optimize its uneven water supply throughout the South and North, will be sped up in an all-around way next year to boost domestic demand.
Zhang Jiyao, director of the State Council's office in charge of the South-to-North Project, told a press conference Monday in Jinan, Shandong province, that ground will be broken in more places along two of the east and central lines of the scheme with related groups of pollution-control facilities to be under operation upstream the Yangtze River, to ensure only clean fresh water can be sourced to its targeted areas.
He urged local authorities to attach more importance to their investment and quality control, land requisition and relocation of local residents who have to make a way for the construction with their land and properties to be well compensated.
He was confident, saying, "Only in this way can we make it and respond to our country's efforts to boost domestic demand and alleviate the impact of the global financial crisis on the national economy."
He urged related local authorities to work together and well cooperate with each other to have their problems settled and provide a better climate for accomplishing these projects on schedule.
The State Council recently approved an overall feasibility study on the water diversion project's east and middle lines, which paved the way for the authorities to start more construction projects.
"It's high time for us to team up with one another and get preparations ready to kick off more new projects for next year with domestic demand expanding in related areas and sectors, leading to increased job opportunities for more workers to work for the round of the upcoming construction," he said.
The colossal South-to-North Water Diversion Project, consisting of the eastern, middle and western routes, will divert water from the water-rich south of the country, mainly the Yangtze River, the country's longest, to the dry north.
Both of the eastern and middle routes are already under construction. The western route, meant to replenish the Yellow River with water diverted from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River by creating huge tunnels in the high mountains of western China, is still at the blueprint stage.
Construction for the first phase of the two routes was officially launched six years ago. Since then, up to 39 projects were under construction involving an accumulated investment of 48 billion yuan (over $7 billion) with 66 percent already completed.
During land requisition, 21,000 residents have been relocated with 62,000 others either provided with land for farming in nearby places or offered jobs in displaced enterprises, experts with Zhang's office disclosed.
According to the South-to-North Water Diversion Office headed by Zhang, completion of the first phase of the east and central lines is scheduled for 2013 and 2014 respectively; it is expected by then, northern provinces and the surrounding areas would have their chronic water supply shortages largely eased up and economic growth pushed ahead.
The huge water diversion project, with a total cost estimated at some 500 billion yuan, would have a far-reaching impact on the sustainable development of the country, and benefit generations to come, observers said.
Upon its final completion in all the three routes, about a dozen provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in north China would benefit, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Shanxi, affecting about 300 million people.
Those areas produce one-third of the country's grain output and GDP with only about 20 percent of the country's average per capita water resource, they said.