After years of building giant empty cities, super-highways to nowhere, and valley-flooding hydroelectric power dams, China has at last found a project that it cannot afford.
A scheme to bring water from the Bohai Bay, in China’s far East, to Xinjiang, in its far West, using glass pipes, has been judged unfeasible, according to a report from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The "Moving Seawater" project would have taken some 40 years and would have filled salt flats, saltwater lakes and basins along the way to fend off the encroaching desert in China’s north.
The seawater would also evaporate in the heat, moistening the arid climate of Northern China and bringing more rainfall to the region.
The cost was initially estimated at a modest (by Chinese standards) 62.8 billion yuan ($9.45 billion), but it seems that it has not, after all, won favour.
The Chinese Academy of Engineering report pointed out that Xinjiang actually has relatively good water resources, as melt water drips down from the Altay and Tianshan mountain ranges into the Taklamakan basin. The problem is that it is all wasted. Better to spend the money on water conservation, the report says.
Might that be the sound of common sense winning out over a grand project that would allow all the officials involved to get rich? We shall see. Perhaps the ongoing difficulties of the South-North water transfer project, which has been going on since Chairman Mao’s time, have convinced officials not to set out on another madcap scheme.