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FACTBOX-Facts on China's South-to-North Water Transfer Project
BEIJING, Feb 27 (Reuters) - China aims to finish a vast project to draw water from southern rivers for its dry north by 2013-2014. The South-to-North Water Transfer Project has been troubled by pollution and the burden of resettling displaced farmers.
Here are some facts about the project:
(Click here for a related story [ID:nPEK312522] )
ENDORSED BY MAO ZEDONG, OFFICIALLY STARTED IN 2002
North China has about half the country's population but 19 percent of its fresh water resources, and industrial and urban growth have strained the nation's rivers and underground reserves.
The idea of canals to divert water from southern rivers northward to ease shortages emerged in 1950s, and the revolutionary Communist leader Mao Zedong embraced the idea, saying in 1952: "The south has plenty of water and the north lacks it, so if possible why not borrow some?"
The plan to build a dam near the confluence of the Han and Dan Rivers in central China was launched in 1958. But serious plans to build a canal northward developed only in the 1990s, and work on the South-to-North Water Transfer Project began in 2002.
TWO ROUTES OR THREE?
The project envisions three routes: eastern, central and western. But only the first two are under construction, and plans for the more expensive and difficult western route remains sketchy and controversial.
The eastern route snakes up seaboard provinces, beginning at the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province, and will supply water for farms and industry. The first phase is now scheduled for completion in 2013. But work has been troubled by delays and industrial and farm pollution that threatens water quality.
The central route will start at the Danjiangkou Dam and provide drinking water to Beijing, Tianjin and over a dozen smaller cities, as well as irrigation for farmland. Some experts have said the water will be so costly that it will be beyond the reach of farmers.
This central route was to be finished for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but that date has been pushed back to 2010 and now 2014. With long stretches of the canal not even begun, more delays would not be a surprise.
The western route would tap rivers on the Qinghai-Tibet highland to feed the arid northwest, and engineers have produced technical studies for it. But many experts say the project would be immensely expensive and difficult, and no launch date for construction has been announced.
On each route, an initial phase and subsequent expansions over many decades have been proposed.
HOW MUCH WATER AND AT WHAT COST?
Officials say the eastern route will eventually be able to send 14.8 billion cubic metres of water annually, and the central route will be able to send 13-14 billion cubic metres a year.
Chinese water officials recently said that completing the first phases of the eastern and central routes will cost about 254.6 billion yuan ($37.4 billion), with contributions from the central and provincial governments and bank loans.
(Sources: Xinhua news agency; South-North Water Transfer Project Office faxed answers and Web site www.nsbd.gov.cn; Wang Lachun et. al., China's Water Problems; Mei Jie, The Mighty River Goes North)
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Megan Goldin)
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