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Massive Water Project to Begin

From Associated Press

China has approved a multibillion-dollar project to pump water from its verdant south to the arid north in a plan that would be China’s largest water diversion effort.

State media quoted Water Resources Vice Minister Zhang Jiyao today saying that construction was ready to begin and that an initial segment could be finished by 2005.

“The south-to-north water diversion project is a mega-project that is strategically aimed at realizing the optimal allocation of water resources,” Zhang was quoted saying in the English-language China Daily.

The project aims to relieve growing demand for water in Beijing and other key northern cities that are home to about half of China’s population and important grain growing and industrial regions.

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An idea credited to communist China’s founder Mao Tse-tung, the plan would build three massive north-south aqueducts to pump water from the Yangtze, the world’s third-longest river. Together, the three channels would pump 48 billion tons of water a year -- enough to fill New York City’s taps for a quarter century.

In the first phase, Yangtze water will be pumped to parched Shandong province by 2005, the official New China News Agency said. Yangtze water will reach Beijing by 2010, it said.

The scale of the project has raised questions about possible negative effects on the environment, as well as the economic strain it will place on China’s developing economy. The total expenditure could exceed that of the Three Gorges Dam, which is expected to cost $24 billion.


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