Massive water diversion project put on fast track
2009-Dec-29 07:49:59

Estimated 330,000 people marked for relocation by 2011

ZHENGZHOU: Authorities are accelerating the planned relocation of a projected 330,000 people as the colossal South-to-North Water Diversion (SNWD) project goes into high gear next year, the project's top officer said.

Zhang Jiyao, chief of the SNWD project office under the State Council, the country's Cabinet, on Monday urged local authorities to complete all migrant displacement by the end of 2011 - two years ahead of the original deadline. Almost half the people will reportedly be relocated next year.

A record 48 billion yuan ($7 billion) will also be invested in more than 70 new subsidiary programs of the mega-project that will be under way next year. That amount is more than the sum of China's total investments in the project during the past seven years.

The SNWD project, the largest known water diversion project, was started in 1952 to solve the country's chronic water shortages.

The effort involves creating three routes to channel 44.8 billion cu m of water from southern China to the northern areas.

While north China has only 19 percent of the country's water resources, the region is home to 64 percent of the country's cultivated land, officials said.

As part of the project's central route, affecting Henan and Hubei provinces, water from the Danjiangkou Dam reservoir will be diverted to Beijing.

About 382,000 residents of the two provinces were relocated between 1958 and 1976 during construction of the dam, a subsidiary of the SNWD project.

Earlier this year, another 23,000 residents from the two provinces were relocated. Next year, project officials said they plan to relocate about 61,000 residents of Henan and 80,000 from Hubei.

By comparison, 1.2 million people were relocated during the decades-long construction of China's Three Gorges Dam.

The SNWD project's total investment will be twice the amount spent on the Three Gorges Dam project.

Experts with Zhang's office said most of next year's project budget will be paid for with government funds and bank loans. About 72 percent of next year's budget is earmarked for relocation of people and land acquisition, the experts said.

Past work on the project's central route has included heightening the Danjiangkou Dam reservoir to hold more water for ultimate transportation to cities such as Tianjin and Beijing that have suffered drought for the past decade.

Zhang credited China's recent macroeconomic policies for allowing the project to proceed at an accelerated pace.

"It was the policy that has laid the foundation for us to step up construction and clear up obstacles ahead with the help of the country's proactive fiscal policy and moderately loose monetary policy," he said.

The SNWD project, an effort that will take at least 40 years to complete, will ultimately connect the country's Yangtze, Huaihe, Yellow and Haihe rivers via three water-diversion channels. Construction of the eastern route began in December 2002 and construction of the first phase of the central route began a year later.

The western route, meant to replenish the Yellow River with water diverted from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, is still at the blueprint stage.

According to Zhang's office, the first phase of the eastern route will begin to provide water in 2013, and the central canal is expected to begin providing water in 2014.


(China Daily 12/29/2009 page4)

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