Chinese water diversion project to help tackle northern China's drought crisisChina correspondent Huey Fern Tay, Henan province, Friday January 31, 2014 - 20:05 EDT
A $62 billion water project in China is aiming to provide water to the country's drought-hit areas.
The middle section of the water diversion scheme, known as the South-North Water Transfer project, will start later this year.
When it does, billions of cubic metres of water will begin flowing more than 1,000 kilometres from central China to Beijing.
The eastern route of the project, divided into three sections, began operating in 2013.
An estimated 300,000 people were forced to relocate to make way for the massive water diversion project, first envisioned by Mao Zedong over 50 years ago.
The central route is located in Henan province, where around 1,800 people live in a resettlement village.
Kong Dielian, 40, and her neighbours are among the earliest wave of displaced villagers.
Mrs Kong says she can barely make ends meet with the small plot of land she owns.
Her house was newly-built when she moved in three years ago, but today there are cracks on the walls of every room.
"All the houses here have cracks in them. Mine is considered a mild case," Ms Kong said.
To add insult to injury, Mrs Kong also had to find another $RMB 90,000 yuan (around $AUS16,500) for the house because it was the only one big enough to fit her large family.
Mrs Kong has less land than before and the soil isn't as good.
She is dependent on the weather gods for a good harvest because there's no well to irrigate her crops.
Ms Kong says she feels cheated because she was told there would be one at her new plot of land.
Going back is not an option because the village where she and generations of her family grew up will be submerged by October.
Seeking solutions for drought-stricken north
This project is meant to bring some respite to China's traditionally parched north by channelling water from all reaches of the Yangtze river, which lies in the south of the country.
Construction for the western route has not even begun because it involves building along the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, a harsh environment in western China that's prone to earthquakes.
The project has also been plagued with pollution concerns. Chinese state media say the government has already spent $1.5 billion treating the water along the eastern route of the project.
China's leaders have pressed on because the water shortage in the country's north is dire. Cities and farmland are competing furiously for the very scarce resource.
The water level in Beijing's Miyun reservoir - one of the capital's main sources of water - is the highest it's been in 11 years but water conservationist Zhang Junfeng isn't cheering.
"The water level is between 25 to 30 per cent. It's not a very good level," he said.
"This water level is low compared to 20 years ago. It's about half of what it was two decades ago."
Farmers in Hebei the province that surrounds most of Beijing have also had to change the type of crop they grow because of drier conditions.
Mr Junfeng says climate change has exacerbated the problem.
But there are signs that water conservation will be encouraged. In January, the country's top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, announced plans to raise water prices for urban households in all cities and some towns by the end of 2015.
© ABC 2014
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