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Tunnel to funnel water to thirsty Beijing
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-02 00:28

Ground was broken Wednesday in Hebei Province to further push the long-awaited construction of the middle line of the south-to-north water diversion project.

As part of the Beijing-Shijiazhuang section of the middle line, work on a huge inverted siphon and a more than 2,660-metre long tunnel involving a total funding of 418 million yuan (US$50.3 million) began in Hebei's Quyang and Xushui counties, respectively.

The 307-kilometre long Beijing-Shijiazhuang section is a key part of the middle line to link four reservoirs in Hebei with Beijing as an emergency water supply channel to help ease up possible shortages in China's capital city by 2007 or before the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

"Upon its completion, the 17.4 billion yuan(US$2 billion) Beijing-Shijiazhuang section is expected to take 400 million cubic metres of water per year from the Gangnan, Huangbizhuang, Yukuai and Xidayang reservoirs in Hebei to Beijing to ensure the capital's water supply security," said an expert who declined to be named.

Last December, work on two other inverted grand siphon sections was begun in Beijing and the Hutuo River near Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, a water official said.

"The kickoff of the Beijing-Shijiazhuang section was a milestone for simultaneous construction of the middle and eastern lines of the gigantic diversion project," said Ning Yuan, deputy-director for the office responsible for the water diversion project under the State Council. Ning spoke at the construction site on the Tanghe River within the Haihe River water system Wednesday.

In 2002, the central government gave the green light for the construction of the middle and eastern lines of the water diversion project, China's most ambitious water diversion effort in history to transport water from the Yangtze River in the south into the parched north.

This year, "work on 11 sub-projects will follow in other sections along the two lines," sources with Ning's office confirmed.

By the end of this year, 13 sub-projects or 40 per cent of the total planned major works will be under full construction along the two lines.

"They will bring construction of the two lines (middle and east) into full swing in the years to come with an estimated 60 billion yuan (7.2 billion) or about half of the total budgeted for the two lines," he added as hundreds of bulldozers began work.

The south-to-north water diversion project consists of three south-to-north canals, each running about 1,300 kilometres across the eastern, middle and western parts of the country.

The three lines are designed to divert water from the upper, middle and lower reaches of the water-rich Yangtze River into the country's drought-prone north.

Over the past two decades, hundreds of cities in North and Northwest China have been plunged into an ever-growing regional potential crisis of water resources.

The middle line is to take water from the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Central China's Hubei Province into large cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province and Zhengzhou in Henan Province.

South water to quench thirst of north lands

The eastern line is designed to transfer water from East China's Jiangsu Province along the Yangtze River into Tianjin while hard spade work on the west line continues.

To be built in three phases -- section by section -- the three canals will link up the country's four major rivers: the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River. That will optimize the country's existing water resources from within its major rivers.

The south-to-north project is also crucial for relieving water shortages, improving the ecosystem and promoting China's "Go West" strategy along its wriggling canals, experts say.

Specifically, it would significantly alleviate acute water shortages along the Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River in the north, eastern Shandong Province and some areas in northwestern China, experts predict.

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