China recently began digging a tunnel beneath the Yellow River in eastern Shandong Province as part of the massive south-to-north water diversion project, www.chinaview.cn reported.
The 7,870-m tunnel would annually divert 442 million cu m of water from the Yangtze River to the northern banks of the Yellow River, said Zhang Jirao, director of the South-North Water Diversion Project Office of the State Council.
The tunneling was scheduled to be completed in three years with an investment of 613 million yuan ($92.1 million U.S.), according to the website.
Water shortage had become an obstacle to the development of north China in recent years. The tunneling project, however, was a key step in diverting more water to the region. Hebei Province and Tianjin Municipality would directly benefit from the tunnel upon its completion, according to Jirao.
In order to ensure success, an experimental tunnel was constructed under the Yellow River, the country's second longest river, in the 1980s. This provided references and data for the design and construction of the tunnel. In 2002, China approved the south-to-north water diversion project that aimed to relieve severe water shortages in parched northern areas.
The project will divert water from the Yangtze, China’s longest river, to the northern areas of the country. An eastern, middle and western route was planned.
Upon completion of the project, about a dozen provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in north China including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Shanxi will benefit. These areas produce one-third of the country's grain output and GDP with about 20% of the country's average per capita water resource.
The water diversion project, with a total cost estimated to be 486 billion yuan, will have a far-reaching impact on the sustainable development of the country, and will benefit many generations to come, observers said.