The Chinese government announced this week that a key section of its multi-billion- dollar South-to-North Water Transfer Project has been completed.
The new section crosses 600 kilometers of arid Hebei Province, connecting Beijing with Hebei’s capital city of Shijiazhuang. It also includes a section near the port of Tianjin.
This section, the first stage of the project’s middle route, cost some $6.85 billion USD.
The entire middle route is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and will supply water to 19 major cities and 100 smaller towns in northern China starting in 2014.
Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed the progress on the water transfer project.
“We should strengthen management and keep working to ensure steady progress on the project and stable water quality,” state-owned Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who heads the project’s construction committee, stressed the importance of work that still remains to be done, including ensuring water quality, protecting the environment and avoiding safety issues.
Pollution problems have plagued the entire diversion project. Last month, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection admitted that the Danjiangkou Reservoir, a central component of the middle route, is extremely polluted.
The ministry said the five rivers that flow into the reservoir are all often used as a dumping site for untreated sewage and wastewater from local industries. Cheng Jiagang, vice mayor of Shiyan City, where the reservoir is located, estimated earlier this year that approximately 1.3 million tons of sewage are dumped into the five rivers on a daily basis.
The reservoir’s water is expected to start flowing to Beijing and Tianjin by next year, once the middle route is completed. China’s State Council has set targets to improve water quality throughout the central region by 2015. However, Cheng said this was unrealistic.
“The target is very unlikely to be met, as many pollution-control projects land behind schedule, due to a fund shortage,” he said.
The South-to-North diversion project’s eastern route was recently completed at a cost of $8.2 billion USD. It supplies water to the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhul and Shandong.
The project’s three routes -- western, central and eastern route -- will divert water from the Yangtze River to the Yellow River and Hai River. It will supply 44.8 billion cubic meters/year of water from the country’s south to the arid north.
This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.