China’s controversial Three Gorges dam looks like small potatoes next to the country’s latest proposed water project, a gargantuan network of dams and canals designed to divert water from the south to thirsty northern cities such as Beijing. The project would cost $60 billion over 50 years (twice as much as Three Gorges) and would displace at least 320,000 people. The diverted water would come from sources in the heart of China’s industrial region, including the highly polluted Yangtze River. Chinese officials claim the plan would actually aid the environment by easing water shortages in the north, which have led to overuse of groundwater and surface water, destruction of wetlands, and serious pollution. But environmentalists disagree, and plan to target banks and lending agencies to discourage them from financing the project.
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