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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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