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BEIJING, Jan 19 (Reuters) - China is to embark on a water-diversion scheme it calls the most difficult in history, bringing water to nearly half a million people in drought-prone mountains of the southwest, state media said on Monday.
The "unthinkable" hydro scheme in the province of Guizhou would include a curved, 63-km (40-mile) canal and a 162.5-metre (533-ft) dam, diverting water to the central part of the province, China National Radio said on its website (www.cnr.cn).
"The project will provide drinking water to 418,000 people as well as irrigate 651,400 acres (263,600 hectares) of farmland," the report said.
"The difficulties in the canal's construction, such as the curved design, the huge dam and a series of long aqueducts and tunnels in geologically complicated areas make the project the most difficult," it said.
The headline on the story described it as the "the most difficult hydro works in history".
China's Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydro-electric power project in the world, is 2,309 metres long and forms a 660-km (400-mile) long reservoir on the Yangtze River in Hubei province.
Compared to massive Three Gorges Dam's expenditure of over $20 billion, the Guizhou project has a modest budget of 6.2 billion yuan ($907 million), Xinhua news agency said.
The South-North Water Diversion Project, aimed at easing chronic water shortages in Beijing and other parts of northern China through two long canals, has been troubled by pollution, difficulties relocating displaced residents and engineering hitches.
When finished, the central route will carry water from tributaries of the Yangtze River in central Hubei province to Beijing. An eastern route will draw directly from the Yangtze itself to the port city Tianjin and other parts of the north. (Reporting by Yu Le; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson)