China’s South-to-North Water Transfer Project
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China’s ongoing South-to-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP) is the largest water pipeline project that has ever been undertaken anywhere in the world. At its completion sometime around 2050, it will connect the southern Yangtze River and northern Yellow River with 2,700 miles of tunnels and canals via three distinct routes through western, central and eastern China. This project is ecologically irresponsible and economically inefficient, but government officials staunchly defend it by highlighting its connection with historical Chinese water-use practices and its promise of sustaining economic growth. While water scarcity is a serious and growing problem in China, this project will have far-reaching, devastating, and unforeseeable consequences and will therefore exacerbate existing problems while introducing new ones. The Chinese government should instead pursue self-sufficient, environmentally friendly alternatives in lieu of this grandiose and wasteful water transfer scheme. Such alternatives can be realized, but only if Beijing can learn to adapt to the country’s environmental realities and successfully promote water conservation practices.