Relocation of 330,000 Residents Begins for China's Largest Water Project Since Three Gorges Dam

yangtze river photo

Photo via Le Grand Portage via Flickr CC
China has a water problem. In fact, the only resource constraint standing in the way of their rampant growth is water. There just isn't enough of it, especially in the north. That's why the country has been working on a massive water relocation project, diverting water from the south back up to the parched north. It is the largest water man-handling project since Three Gorges, and it will force the relocation of some 330,000 people. The first of those residents started their move this week, and despite a brief departing meal and the music of a band all paid for by the government, the residents weren't cheery about leaving since their old homes will be under 170 meters of water by 2014. Edie reports, "The multi-billion-dollar South-North Water Diversion Project (SNWD) to divert water from southern China to its arid north will see 180,000 people relocated form Hubei Province and 150,000 from neighbouring Henan."

One villager stated, "I am surprised nobody cried when the coaches left our village. Last night, we felt sorrow when the whole village gathered to have our last dinner in our hometown together."

The water diversion project will diver water from the Yangtze River to the Yellow and Hair Rivers, along with other smaller projects. Northern China is more heavily industrialized yet receives much less rainfall than southern China, and as manufacturing plants, power plants, and other infrastructure needs for manufacturing and supporting major cities like Beijing and Tianjin require massive amounts of water, it's no wonder that the north is hurting.

While intended to sustain the major cities and production in the north for the long-term, this water diversion plan is ultimately a band-aid solution to last for a very finite amount of time, since the only thing that will solve the country's water woes is a massive change in how China uses its water sources. Producing too much stuff and trying to provide too many things to a too-big population will require all the water the country has and then some. China is headed for a water crisis (and is already in one in many areas) and no amount of relocating people in order to relocate water will be enough to stop it.

Still, the project is moving forward. The number of relocated residents will rise to 60,000 by the end of September. Everyone being relocated has been promised property as good as what they're leaving behind, plus one-off compensation payments and government subsidies for the next 20 years.

The impact of this project is no small matter. As we discussed last year when plans for the project were (or maybe weren't) put on hold, the consequences of the project for the environment as well as social unrest are far-reaching -- not just in China but also with its neighbor, India.

But it seems as if the project will move forward no matter what, and people's lives are already being disrupted over it.

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More on China's Water Projects
Citing Environment, China Delays World's Longest Aqueduct Project
China, Not Drought, Getting the Blame for Water Shortages
Islands of Garbage Filling China's Three Gorges Dam

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