The total project, at an estimated $62 billion, is expected to cost nearly three times the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam, and to take decades to complete. It is expected to require the relocation of some 300,000 people, and, when finished, to carry a volume of water equal to more than half of California’s total annual consumption along its eastern, central and western routes.
The eastern route, which mostly follows the ancient Grand Canal, is largely done. The mountainous western route, which is the most controversial and technically challenging, isn’t slated for completion until 2050. The central section was supposed to start operation in 2010, but officials now say it will be finished in 2014.
In a written response to questions from The Wall Street Journal, the South-to-North Water Diversion Office under the State Council, China’s cabinet, confirmed changes in the plan, but said the new timetable represents an “adjustment,” not a delay. “We have taken appropriate measures to mitigate the environmental adverse effects that the construction projects may make,” the office said. The new measures include dams that could maintain higher water levels and reduce pollution.