From: Joe McDonald, Associated Press
Published April 5, 2005 12:00 AM

China Announces Plan to Move 400,000 People for Giant Water-Diversion Project

BEIJING — China announced plans Tuesday to relocate 400,000 people to make way for a US$60 billion (euro50 billion) network of canals to supply its dry north with water from the wetter south.


It will be China's second major forced relocation of residents, coming after 1.3 million people were moved to make way for the vast Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in the southwest.


The canals are to move water hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the Yangtze to Beijing and other parts of the north. The government says building the South-North Water Diversion Project could take up to 50 years and cost more than 500 billion yuan (US$60 billion; euro50 billion).


Areas to be cleared stretch across seven provinces, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Zhang Jiyao, an official of the water-diversion project. It didn't say when relocations would begin or exactly which towns or counties in the densely settled east are to be cleared.


"The task is arduous and urgent," Zhang was quoted as saying at a conference on land acquisition for the project.


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China says it ranks among the world's driest countries and providing enough water for its 1.3 billion people, as well as farms and industry, is a chronic government worry.


State media said this week that prolonged drought in areas throughout the country might jeopardize the spring planting of rice and wheat.


Relocations for the Three Gorges Dam prompted protests by residents who complained that they were paid too little for valuable farmland and were forced to move to areas with few jobs or poor soil.


The report Tuesday didn't say whether farmers would be provided with new land for the latest project.


Apparently trying to ease such fears, Zhang promised that residents would be compensated and get help to start new lives. He said local officials were required to sign a "letter of responsibility" promising to handle the relocations properly.


"We must ensure that good arrangements are made for the life and production of the relocated people, and that the living standards of those people will not go down because of the resettlement," he was quoted as saying.


The network consists of three sets of canals. Work on the central leg supplying Beijing began in December 2003, a year after the start of construction on the eastern section. The government hasn't broken ground for the western section.


Parts of the project follows the route of the Grand Canal, a waterway built in the 10th century linking Beijing with the city of Hangzhou, a former imperial capital southwest of Shanghai.


The government says that by 2050, the water-diversion network will be capable of moving 45 billion cubic meters (1.6 trillion cubic feet) of water per year.


Source: Associated Press


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