South China Morning Post
April 10, 2006
Beijing plans to move 220,000 people to make way for a multi-billion dollar project to transfer water from the flood-prone Yangtze river to the parched cities and farmland of the north.
REUTERS in Beijing — Beijing plans to move 220,000 people to make way for a multi-billion dollar project to transfer water from the flood-prone Yangtze river to the parched cities and farmland of the north, officials said on Wednesday. But they pledged to keep the project clean of corruption scandals which have plagued the relocation of more than a million people in China’s other huge water project – the $25 billion Three Gorges Dam. Environmental experts, both Chinese and foreign, say the new project will cause massive corruption, human hardship and environmental damage, and could dry up the Yangtze in 30 years. They are urging Beijing to takes simpler steps like raising water prices and curbing rampant well-digging. But a panel of water project experts from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which advises parliament, told a news conference the project was the only solution to the water crisis. ”Saving water cannot possibly reverse the trend of water shortage fundamentally,” said Wang Guangqian, a member of the CPPCC committee on population, resources and environment. ”Diversion of water from the south to the north will settle this problem,” said Wang, a professor in the hydro-electric power department of Beijing’s Tsinghua University. The huge project, first conceived by chairman Mao Zedong 50 years ago, was revived last year during a strong drought to meet a water crisis which threatens to undermine economic development and social stability.