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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 18:21 GMT
Olympics 'threat to water supply'
Workers constructing water pipes on the outskirts of Beijing, 19 February 2008
An extensive pipe network will bring water to Beijing from the provinces
The diversion of water for the Beijing Olympics threatens the livelihoods of millions of people, a senior Chinese government official has said.

The official, An Qiyuan, from Shaanxi province, told the UK's Financial Times newspaper that people in north-western provinces should be compensated.

He warned of social upheaval and environmental harm because of the strain put on local water supplies.

China is building a huge network to divert water to the north.

The project will divert water from rivers in the south via tunnels, dams and canals to cities in the north where consumption is at an all-time high.

Part of the massive project was brought forward to provide water for the Olympics in the summer.

Mr An, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee in Shaanxi, said the diversion of water supplies would have a severe effect.

Factories closed

"In order to preserve the quality of Beijing's water we have to close all our factories," he said.

"But we still need to live. So I say the government needs to compensate Shaanxi."

Mr An, formerly Communist Party chief in Shaanxi, was also critical of the huge Sanmexia Dam, constructed in the 1950s.

The project is blamed for the Yellow River silting up and causing flooding - something it was meant to avoid.

"It was so stupid, stupid," said Mr An.

Correspondents say it is unusual for a leading communist official to be so openly critical of government policy.

National network

Shaanxi and Hebei province are being required to pump clean water to Beijing in time for the Olympics.

A bridge over the Yellow River
Much of the extra water for Beijing will come from the Yellow River

They are on the northern stretch of a much larger water transfer project designed to bring supplies from the Yangtze River in the south to thirsty northern industrial areas, including Beijing.

The entire project, costing tens of billions of dollars, is due for completion by 2010, but the authorities in the capital are hoping the northern leg of the network will be ready in time for the Olympics.

Experts say water demand could rise to 30% above average in the city as thousands of visitors arrive for the games.


Hebei province, which lies next to Beijing and supplies most of its water, is suffering from severe drought, the official Hebei Daily reported on Tuesday.

Officials in the province were quoted as saying the drought, caused by a lack of rain and snow, meant the "conflict between water supply and demand has been dramatically exacerbated".

Hebei province is being asked to provide an extra 300m cubic metres of back-up supplies to Beijing's 16 million residents as the Games approach.

Several hundred kilometres of pipe and channels are being constructed in the province to supply the capital. But farmers complain that lack of water is already severely undermining agricultural land.

The Hebei Daily reported that 33,000 sq km (12,740 sq miles) of farmland was now affected by drought, while a quarter of a million residents were facing problems with drinking water.

Map: China water project

A network of tunnels, pumps and dams will move water from rivers in the south and west to densely-populated areas in the north
Two western routes cross the Tibetan plateau and move water from the upper Yangtze to the Yellow river
Central route will divert water from the Danjiangkou reservoir underneath the Yellow river to Beijing and Tianjin
Eastern route will pump water from the Yangtze to supply Shandong and Jiangsu provinces
The entire project is expected to cost at least $60bn, far exceeding cost of the Three Gorges Dam
Estimated completion date is 2010 but Beijing hopes some northern sections will alleviate water shortages in time for the Olympics
Critics say the diversions will drain farmland, forcibly relocate tens of thousands of people and impair water quality

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