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Highest river to be left alone

CHINA won't be supplying its thirsty north with water from the world's highest river, China's former water minister said yesterday.

"The Chinese government has no plan to divert the Yarlung Zangbo River to the Yellow River," Wang Shucheng told a water resources seminar in Beijing.

With an average altitude of 4,500 meters, the Yarlung Zangbo River, also known as the Tsangpo River, originates in glacial regions of the northern Himalayas, runs 2,057 kilometers through Tibet in western China, passes into India and finally meets the Indian Ocean in the Bay of Bengal.

Wang rejected including the Yarlung Zangbo River in the western route of China's south-to-north water diversion project, designed to shift water from the water-rich south to the dry north, including Beijing.

"It is unnecessary, infeasible and unscientific to include the Yarlung Zangbo River in the western route of the massive project," Wang told officials and scholars from 10 countries at the seminar organized by the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, a non-governmental think tank, and the Hong Kong-based Michael Eric Bosman Hotung Foundation, a non-profit organization.

The south-to-north project consists of eastern, central and western routes. The eastern and central routes are already under construction, while the western route, meant to replenish the Yellow River with water from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, is still at the planning stage.

"The Yangtze, with annual capacity of 1 trillion cubic meters of water, is abundant enough to deal with the ecological, economic and social demand for water along the Yellow River," Wang said. "The 10 billion cubic meters of water annually from the Yangtze will generate significant improvements for the Yellow River while having almost no impact on the longest river."

Of a proposal to diverting 200 billion cubic meters annually from the Yarlung Zangbo River to the Yellow River, Wang said such volumes would damage dams and embankments in the latter river.

Wang dismissed another suggestion that water diverted from the highest river be channeled into Qinghai Lake, the country's biggest salt water lake. "Mixing fresh water with saline will cause serious chemical changes," Wang said.


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