China's South-North Water Project Moves Forward
February 6, 2012 • 9:28AM

In North America, there is abundant fresh water in the far North that would make a vast difference were it to be brought south to water the American and Mexican deserts by means of NAWAPA. In China the situation is reversed, there is excess water available from the Yangtze river in the South while North China is dry, bounded by the Gobi desert. China's South-North Water Diversion Project is of the same type of earth engineering project as NAWAPA, if significantly smaller in scale. Also different is that the Chinese project is underway.

Its South-North Water Diversion Project, one of China's largest infrastructure projects since the building of the Three Gorges Dam, will become partly operational this year and will start supplying water in 2013, according to a Xinhua report.

"About 6 billion yuan ($952.8 million) will be spent to complete civil construction in Shandong province before the end of this year, so as to ensure the entire project becomes operational in the first half of 2013," said Sun Yifu, deputy water resources chief in Shandong province, Saturday.

He said the province aims to pass the state's acceptance tests for seven pumping stations, and 24 pivotal engineering projects including a tunnel beneath the Yellow River. The first batch of 18 water supply units will be operational next year, and the remaining 23 units will be completed by 2015, said Sun.

China's south-to-north water diversion project consists of three routes, the eastern, middle and western routes. Shandong has been building part of the eastern route, which runs 1,467 km, since 2002. As of the end of 2011, investment had totaled 15.8 billion yuan ($2.5 billion). The project was first conceived in 1952, and the State Council approved it in December 2002 after debates that lasted nearly a half century.

The project, with an estimated total cost of 500 billion yuan ($80 billion), has aroused Green fear and loathing, or "global concerns over land use, possible regional climate changes, environmental damage, impact on agriculture and human suffering in the wake of massive relocations," as the China Daily puts it.

The project plans to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water annually from the Yangtze through eastern, middle, and western routes to relieve water shortages in north China by 2050. Its central route, the construction of which began in 2003, would be operational in 2014. Construction has not begun on the western route.