China delays water transfer project

China has decided to postpone completing a huge water transfer project meant to channel water from central Hubei province to the Beijing capital, reported Reuters, quoting the Xinhua news agency. Government officials claim that the ecological and environmental risks require the target completion date to be pushed back four years to 2014.


The South-North Water Diversion scheme is meant to divert water from the Yangtze River and its tributaries to heavily industrialised northern China. The primary "central route" — stretching 1,267 kilometers from the Danjiangkou Dam in central Hubei province to Beijing – was originally scheduled to be completed in 2010.


Hubei officials were quoted as saying that pollution and ecological strains in the rivers feeding the dam will make its completion by 2010 impossible, Hubei’s Changjiang Times said. "To prevent ecological and environmental risks to the South-North Water Diversion Project, completion of the central route will be delayed for four years," said Wang Fengyu, a Hubei official.


Beijing currently supports a population of 17 million on dwindling local water sources and has long relied on pumping water from neighbouring Hebei province, which itself faces severe water shortages. Critics of the dam have said that the project risks dangerously destabilising already threatened water systems.


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