China's South-to-North Water Transfers the Middle Route Project

As is well-known, in respect of its water resources amount totaled China ranks the sixth in the world, but in terms of actual water volume commanded per capita its place comes down to the eighty eighth, that is , the available water it owns per capita amounts to only one-fourth of that the world does. Moreover, the distribution of its water resources is so much disproportionate throughout the country that as ample flow or water surplus regions, the Yangtze (Changjiang)River basin and those rivers situated to the south of it yield a runoff accounting for more than 8O% of the nation's total, while having an arable area of less than 40% (of the nation' s total); on the contrary, as water deficient, regions of the Huanghe(Yellow River), Huaihe and Haihe basins see a runoff of merely below 6. 5%, while having to maintain an area of arable land nearly of the same order (40%). At present, yet poorer in water resources are the Huang-Huai-Hai plains, densely populated and highly cultivated, and the problem is awaiting immediate solution through transferring. To this end, a scheme called the Middle Route Project (MRP) under South-to-North Water Transfers, was worked out, which is, as planned, to divert, in the near future, water from Danjiangkou reservoir on the Hanjiang, a tributary to the Yangtze River, within the boundaries of the provinces of Hubei and Henan, to supply three provinces, Hubei Henan and Hebei, as well as two major cities, Beijing and Tianjin, for domestic, industrial, agricultural and other uses. The proposed trunk conveyance canal, in which the water will flow solely by gravity, will be laid out along the borders of the northern Tangbaihe plain and the western Huang-Huai Hai plans to terminated at Beijing and Tianjin. In the far future additional water is due to be obtained from the main stem of thc Yangtze River proper. Now, the recommended MRP is considered to be an optimum solution for mitigating the existing crisis of water resources in North China. The advantages of this scheme lie mainly in good quality of the water to be diverted, dependable amount of water transfered, greater coverage available and flexibility in supply in addition to that water can be conveyed from south to north by gravity and so can it be supplied from west to east.

It has been already 40 years since the earlier stage study on the MRP started in the 1950s, and in this connection extensive efforts, including geologic investigation and survey, planning and designing as well as scientific researches, were then conducted by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission (CWRC).

In 1993, a report, entitled the "Feasibility Study on the MRP under South-to-North Water Transfers", was issued by CWRC with the cooperation of the provinces and cities concerned, and this report has been approved by the State Planning Commission (SPC) and._ the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR).

The MRP is so far one of the largest water conservancy projects ever schemed in China and in the world as well. Its free flow trunk canal has a total length of about 1240 km, and is designed to provide a mean annual transferable amount of water of 14.5 billion m3.

Principal Benefits from the MRP

1 Principal Benefits from the MRP

The water import regions with the MRP cover an area totaling 0.1551 million km2, and they are composed chiefly of the Tangbaihe plain and the middle- western Huang-Huai-Hai plains. These regions are very conveniently located there are arterial railways available in the directions both meridional such as Beijing- Guangzhou , Jiaozhuo-Zhichen, Tianjin-Pukou and Beijing-Jiujiang(under construction), and latitudinal such as Beijing-Tianjin, Shide, Longhai, Pingdingshan-Zhoukou, including a number of their branches. In addition, highways are available there radiating in all directions.

The industrial and agricultural production in these regions plays an important role in national economy. Coal and petroleum resources there are very rich. Besides, other industries are also well-founded. Since the terrain is even and flat, yet light and heat sources are ample, the potentialities for expanded agricultural production are great. In population and arable area the regions make up about 8 % of the country's total. and in total output value of industry and agriculture 12%. Altogether, there are 17 large-and medium-size cities involved, including such major cities as 13eijing, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang and Zhengzhou, etc.

The local water resources plus the water inflow from outside of the regions amount to only 1. 5 % of the nation's total, and the water per capita merely 1/6 of the nation's averaged level. Due to the shortage of water resources, which is leading to a series of environmental and social problems in the area, the contradiction between it and the socio-economic development and ecological environmental protection has so evolved that it couldn' t be coordinated well relying solely upon the existing water resources the localities own, and has consequently become a factor restricting the expansion of local industry and agriculture. Immediately neighboring on the import regions with the MRP, the middle Yangtze, where surface water resources are rather abundant, is demonstrated to be the most ideal water source or export region for the proposed inter-basin water transfer.

When implemented, the MRP, being large in scale, will bring about enormous economical, social and environ- mental benefits.

l . l The MRP is the most optimum scheme to alleviate Beijing, Tianjin and North China as well in terms of their crises in water resources shortage. It allows to divert on the gravity basis quality water from the Yangtze River basin to Beijing, the Capital of China, and the City of Tianjin, the largest industrial base and the major foreign trade port in North China, and even the whole North China's economic circle, bringing them valuable " blood". And this will certainly still better the local environment for investment, quicken steps of reforming and opening to the outside and thereby contribute to the nationwide economic development.

1 . 2 When completed, the MRP will provide mean annual benefits of the order of 18. 5 billion yuan, the breakdowns of which are as follows.

Industrial and urban domestic water supply 15. 88 billion yuan,

Irrigation and other water supply items 2. 38 billion yuan,

Flood control 0. 25 billion yuan.

1. 3 With its dam heightened up. the Danjiangkou reservoir on the Hanjiang will yet allow to raise flood control standards for the middle and lower reaches of the river, so as to ensure safety to the Hanbei plain and especially the city of Wuhan, a place of strategic importance in Central China.

1 . 4 Through transferring by the MRP the quantity of water available for urban, domestic and industrial uses will be increased accordingly, its quality much improved and over-tapping of ground water controlled appropriately in the import regions, which is evidently advantageous to human health and the regulation of urban environment.

1. 5 With the increased agricultural water in the import regions, the agro-ecological conditions there-of will be improved, contributing much to the betterment of environmental ecology of the whole area.

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Prepared in cooperation with The University of Maryland College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.