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Xichuan people face relocation
( 2003-08-26 08:07) (China Daily)

People living in Xichuan County, Central China's Henan Province, are preparing for a second relocation because of China's huge water diversion project.

China's south-to-north water diversion project, intended to bring relief to the nation's drought-ridden north by diverting water from the Yangtze River, is a mammoth water conservation scheme even larger than the Three Gorges Project.

Such a massive project requires extensive preparation work. As a first step, the government in the 1950s built a vast reservoir 1,000 kilometres from Beijing, which led to the migration of some local people out of the area. Today, some of those families and their offspring will leave their homes again for the water diversion project.

The central government has drawn up comprehensive plans for the improvement of river drainage areas and has implemented them decisively.

The linchpin of the huge water diversion project lies in the water quality of the watershed areas, experts said, still expressing concern over the environmental protection of wetlands. They said more investment should be put into water and soil conservation work in water source zones.

The large water diversion project is expected to require investment of about 486 billion yuan (US$59 billion), twice as much as the cost of the Three Gorges Dam project.

Once the project is completed, up to 44.8 billion cubic meters of water will be diverted through three canals to the north, roughly the annual volume of all the water in the Yellow River in normal years.

The acute water shortages in the valleys of the Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe rivers, are expected to be significantly alleviated. These areas are home to more than one-third of the country's farmland, grain output, population and gross domestic output.

The scheme has taken 50 years of planning to get to this starting point, and the project is expected to take another 50 years to be completed.

In the 1950s, the late chairman Mao Zedong who was also the founder of the People's Republic of China, proposed for the first time the idea of bringing water from the country's south to the north.

After 50 years of research and discussion, the overall programme for the water transfer project was approved in principle by the State Council on August 23, 2002.

According to the programme, China will build three canals, each more than 1,000 kilometres in length, to act as the eastern, central and western diversion corridors.

The three diversion lines will link together four of China's seven major rivers, including the Yangtze, Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe rivers.

The northern part of the 1,789 kilometres Hangzhou-Beijing Grand Canal, built 1,400 years ago, will constitute the main body of the eastern canal, which has been under construction since last year.

Work on the central canal, starting from Jiangsu Province, running through Hubei and Henan provinces and ending in Beijing, is scheduled to start in October this year.

The third waterway, to be finished by 2050, will cut through high mountains near Tibet to link the Yangtze with the Yellow River, which is chronically dried up from overuse.

When the severe water shortage in North China is alleviated, the ecological environment is expected to benefit and the country will be able to sustain social and economic development.

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