December 8, 2005
South-to-North Diversion Project
In Beijing, water resource management is a large issue facing the seat of the worldâ€™s largest economy. In Beijing water is being pumped and used faster than it can be replaced. Beijing is situated in Northern China near the Yellow River, which is an important source of water for the city. However, the demand for water is greater than what the Yellow River can provide. As a result, the government plans to redirect water from the South to the North, utilizing the Yangtze River. This isnâ€™t the only project that plans to manipulate this river; The Three Gorges Dam is a controversial project already near completion on the Yangtze. The Dam was designed to allow large ocean freighters to travel farther inland, bringing along a new economic market and providing additional electricity for China. However, opponents argue that the relocation of over 1 million people, the flooding of their homes and the environmental impacts of the project outweigh any benefits. The South-to-North Water Diversion Project costs an estimated 58 billion dollars, twice as much as the Three Gorges Dam. The project will be made of three canal systems pumping the water towards the North, in some cases over mountains. Two of the canal paths have already begun construction. According to Water-Technology.net, the system is expected to move 44.8 million cubic meters of water annually by 2008. This flux of water is much needed in China. As reported in William Cunninghamâ€™s â€śEnvironmental Science â€“ A Global Concernâ€?, â€ś400 of the countryâ€™s 670 large cities lack sufficient water. Farmers have rioted over scarce supplies and more than half of the population drinks contaminated water. Desperate rural conditions have increased migration to major cities, where rapidly growing populations increase pressure on scarce water resources.â€?
Despite the fact that the Diversion Project will bring water to thirsty parts of China, many disadvantages emerge. Some argue that even if the water is brought to North, it will be polluted water. The new routes flow through industrial areas of China which threaten to discharge a significant amount of waste and pollutants into the water. Some worry that the water will be so polluted that it will not be viable for drinking, or even fishing. Another important issue brought up by the textbook is the impact of changing the riverâ€™s natural path. Ecosystems will be altered, as some will receive less water than they naturally do, and some will receive more. Changing the water and its flow in the environment will then cause a change in the plant and animal species that occur in the area. This aspect isnâ€™t given as much attention as it should and the economic benefits are often considered more important. The project could potentially alter the climate of Eastern China because of the change in land cover.
I feel that since this project it so large, it has the potential to provide great advantages, and disadvantages. There is not doubt that something needs to be done about the unfulfilled demand for water in the Northern region of China. However, the Chinese government should concentrate on its water treatment facilities. Even if the water is successfully moved north, it will be polluted and need to be treated extensively before it is of any use. Also, if waste water treatment facilities are made more efficient, they would more able to recycle the water already present and used in areas like Beijing. The government should first work on improving its water treatment facilities and distribution policies, and then invest in less ambitious projects to bring water to its citizens.
Posted by at December 8, 2005 12:30 AM