China is moving forward with a massive project to redirect water from the nation’s longest rivers (including the Yangtze and Yellow) to the arid north, helping to quench the thirst of Beijing and other major northern cities. The water will travel via a canal network built over 50 years; costs could eventually exceed $24 billion. The project, initially envisioned by Mao Zedong a half a century ago, will eventually supply the north with 48 billion tons of water a year — enough water for New York City for a quarter of a century. Critics worry that the project will alter the landscape significantly and cause numerous environmental problems. They argue that the country’s leaders have been too quick to adopt a mega-project when smaller-scale projects and improved resource management could do a better job providing northern populations with water.