The project has been in the works for 50 years and will cost an estimated $62 billion dollars. It involves transferring water from the South’s rivers to the North’s increasingly dry areas. And it has stalled under multiple layers of challenges, drawing fierce criticism from those who compare it to the (less expensive) Three Gorges Dam project, which displaced a record 1.2 million people in 13 cities, 140 towns, and 1,350 villages.
The project places heavy pressure on local ecosystems and fisheries. Above all, it highlights China’s complex path ahead with regard to managing its environment and its people. But it also highlights the country’s innovation and how one player, the city of Tianjin, is to become an example for the rest of the country.
…The concern that’s led to some innovation is that the water being pumped to the north is contaminated from high pollution levels. Tianjin, a coastal port town, actually refused the water coming from the South. “As the water diversion project started, Tianjin came up with its own plan to deal with its water shortage problem: seawater desalination,” Probe International reports. “Indeed, the municipality has been developing desalination technologies since the year 2000, and this has been regarded as a more likely new source of water to meet the water supply needs of the municipality.”
With all challenges comes an opportunity for innovation and Tianjin, thankfully, seized the opportunity. Tianjin and the area known as Binhai New Area are to become “An eco-city that advocates environmental conservation and energy saving, a vibrant city that promotes sustainable development, a livable city that guides healthy life and a future city that displays modern civilization.”
See also a report from International Rivers on the water diversion project.