Faced with the prospect of water shortages in China’s Yellow river, Beijing is considering a US$30B project to divert water from the Yangtze river in the south, to the Yellow river some 1200km away.

The project envisages the building of a series of dams and tunnels, and three canals to transport the water from the Yangtze. Work is already under way on two south-north canals associated with the project. In the east, engineers are rebuilding and expanding an ancient man-made waterway, the Grand Canal, which originally ran from the Yangtze to Shandong province. The third canal, the most controversial and expensive, would deliver water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze to the upper reaches of the Yellow river, where the two rivers are somewhat closer together. This route would have to pass through rugged mountains. The three canals combined would, at best, be able to deliver about 60M m3 of water to the north.