Vice-premier urges swift finish to landmark South-North diversion
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang urged authorities to ensure that the deadline is met to complete the South-North Water Diversion Project, the ambitious plan to optimize unbalanced water resources, to alleviate a worsening shortage facing arid northern regions.
"Drought and water shortages are severe restrictions on the country's social and economic development," Li said at a working conference of the project on Wednesday. "Especially in North China, where an ever-increasing drought has hit regions in recent years."
Precipitation fell this winter, up to mid-March, by more than 40 percent in Beijing and Tianjin and groundwater is not being replaced, Li said.
Water shortages in North China will remain a feature well into the near future, but the project will solve the situation.
Other measures should also be utilized, such as conservation and combating water pollution, he said.
The massive water diversion project is designed to take water from the country's longest river, the Yangtze, in the south via an eastern, middle and western route using both canals and pipes.
The diverted water will relieve the thirst of the arid northern regions, including Beijing and Tianjin.
According to the plan, the eastern route will transfer water from East China's Jiangsu province to Tianjin, next door to Beijing, starting in 2013.
The middle route will supply water from the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Central China's Hubei province into large cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Zhengzhou, in 2014.
The project has stepped up its pace since last year.
By the end of 2011, 330,000 people in Henan and Hubei provinces had been relocated to make way for the central route, according to the project office.
The remaining 15,000 people will be resettled in the first half of this year. This will complete the relocations, the project office said in January.
More than 64 billion yuan ($10.13 billion) will be invested in the water diversion project this year.
China invested 57.8 billion yuan in the project in 2011, bringing the total investment to 137.6 billion yuan so far, official figures showed.
Li also stressed the importance of quality management.
He emphasized the importance of making sure that people were properly resettled and local authorities should increase support to help resettled people, he said.
The project is already paying dividends. In 2008, the Beijing-Shijiazhuang section of its middle route, linking reservoirs in Hebei with Beijing, began supplying water as an emergency measure to help ease shortages in the capital.
By the end of 2011, up to 1.1 billion cubic meters of water had been transferred to the city, according to the project office.
The project will transfer at least 1 billion cubic meters of water to Beijing a year, accounting for a quarter of the city's annual water supply, when it is completed in 2014, Sun Guosheng, director of the Beijing branch of the project office, told China Daily in January.