News / Asia

China's Water Transfer Project Runs Into Problems

Engineers construct a base to the Daning Reservoir, an important link in the South-North Water Transfer Project
Engineers construct a base to the Daning Reservoir, an important link in the South-North Water Transfer Project

A 50-year plan to divert water from the Yangtze River to China's dry, thirsty north has run into problems.  The South-North Water Transfer Project is behind schedule and now concerns are growing the water to be pumped north is contaminated.

Regiments of pile drivers pound the earth at the giant Daning Reservoir on the southern outskirts of Beijing.  The huge excavation is part of the most ambitious plumbing job in the world - and the oldest.

China's South-North Water Transfer Project was first planned 50 years ago, but work began in earnest  in 2004.

On completion, the $60 billion project will divert water from the mighty Yangtze River Basin more than a thousand kilometers south to northern China.

Engineer Peng of the South-North Water Transfer Project
Engineer Peng of the South-North Water Transfer Project

One of the many engineers on the Daning site is a man who identified himself only as Peng.

Engineer Peng says the reservoir should be completed by early next year if all goes according to plan.

Water is being diverted southward in three giant channels, eastern, central and western.

Daning reservoir is the end of the line for the central channel.

Like the building of the Yangtze Dam, millions of people have been relocated by the government in what has been described as a sacrifice to solve the nation's drought problem.

But China's biggest hydro-engineering project is in deep trouble.

It is far behind schedule, thus worsening the water crisis in large northern cities like Beijing, where the population is rapidly growing.

Worse, recent reports say the water from the basin is so contaminated that even the 400 expensive treatment parts along the route cannot make it safe for use.

Wang Jian Hua is a scientist from Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research who had agreed to talk about the project. He says he can no longer comment about the South North Water Transfer Project as right now it has become what he describes as a sensitive issue.

VOA asked to speak to other government departments about the project but all refused to comment.

Demand for water has never been so high in China.

Three-hundred million people are moving from the country side to the cities.  Statistics indicate these re-located farmers use three times the amount of water in the cities compared to farming the land.  

There is also 30 years of environmental damage from the fast pace of modernization.  Water tables, the 'surface' of the ground water in a given vicinity, are heavily polluted from unchecked industrialization.  This puts enormous pressure on policy makers in the world's most populous country to come up with solutions to the water shortage.

The question now is whether engineering feats such as the South North Water Transfer Project will work.  British journalist Jonathan Watts has just published a book on China's environment issues titled "When a Billion Chinese Jump." He has visited several sites of the South North Water Transfer Project.

"On the question of whether it works, obviously the Chinese government has gambled a great deal on the assumption that it will work," he said.  "However, we're a considerable part of the way through the project and some problems have emerged that do raise serious questions for the engineers."

Among those problems, Watts says, is the severe drought that struck southern China earlier this year.  He says this raises questions as to whether the south really has enough water to help out people in the north.

Water has become not only a precious commodity in China.  It is fast becoming a defining social and political issue.

At Daning Reservoir, the pile drivers spark once more to life after a short lunch break.  Workmen pour concrete into huge trenches near six huge metal sluice gates.

Engineer Peng says the current focus of work is on the grounds of the reservoir.  He has to ensure the precious cargo soon to be delivered far from the south does not leak and waste away.

You May Like

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More