26 October, 2006 CHINA China debates how to water arid north
A proposal to dig tunnels to divert water from Tibetan basins to the Yellow River has raised discussions and criticism. So far, the government has backed a canal system to take water from the Yangtze but this will take a long time to complete.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A project to divert water from the Tibetan highlands to the parched northern regions of China is “unnecessary, not feasible and unscientific”, according to Wang Shucheng, China’s Water Resources Minister.
Speaking at the University of Hong Kong on 24 October, Wang said normal projects would suffice to resolve water shortages in the north without undertaking the Great Western Route Water Transfer Project.
The proposal, submitted by expert Guo Kai, suggests diverting a total of 200 billion cubic meters of water per year from Tibetan basins of the Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra), Lancang (Salween) and Nu (Mekong) rivers into the Yellow River and from there to the arid north. It has been mooted as an alternative to the so-called South-North Water Transfer Project to take water from the Yangtze and the Three Gorges Dam.
Wang, a hydraulic engineer, recalled that during the floods season, the Yellow River carried up to 58 billion cubic meters of water and with a further 200 billion cubic meters, it could sweep dams and embankments. Meanwhile, the high costs of drawing water from the Yellow River could well dissuade provinces which are not so close at hand. The cost of diverting water from central and eastern water flows for the South-North Project would be of around 10 yuan per cubic meter, continued Wang, and to take water from the Yalong, Dadu e Jinsha rivers would cost around 20 yuan per cubic meter, but it would cost even more to get it from Yarlung Zangbo. Another problem would be excavating channels under the highest mountain range in the world.
So far Beijing has backed the South-North Water Transfer Project to bring 50 billion cubic meters of water per year from the Yangtze along three canals towards the west and centre of the country. However Wang warned this project would take 50 years to realize and for now, resources available should be used.
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