BEIJING -- China will speed up construction of a canal to transfer water from a neighboring province to ensure the water supply for the Beijing Olympics, a director on the project said.
China's South-to-North Water Transfer Project is aimed at bringing water from the Yangtze River to China's arid north.
It is scheduled to be completely finished by 2010, but the central section from the southern city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei province to Beijing will be completed by April to meet Beijing's water needs, officials said.
"The central route to supply water from Shijiazhuang to Beijing is entering its final phase and according to today's development will definitely be able to supply water before the Olympics," said Zhang Jiyao, director of the canal's Construction Committee Office, according to an article on the Web site of the state-run People's Daily newspaper.
Many technical difficulties, such as constructing dams, have been overcome, Zhang said. The project will be able to provide Beijing with 300 million cubic meters of water a year. Beijing's 2006 water consumption was 3.43 billion cubic meters.
At the end of last year, China had spent 19 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) on the section transferring water to Beijing from Hebei province, out of a total of 31.4 billion yuan (US$4.3 billion) expected to be spent, the paper said.
However, Zhang acknowledged pollution in the canal was a concern and that protecting the environment should be a priority before using the water.
Beijing has been experiencing droughts since 1996 and has been working on a series of measures to bring extra water for its growing population. Officials have said there will be adequate supply for visitors and sufficient drinking water for the 16,000 athletes and officials living in the Olympic Village.