China To Green Western Deserts With Seawater

From the Great Wall of China to the Three Gorges Dam, megaprojects have helped transform China's environment, prosperity and livability.

Now a radical water-moving project seeks to green the arid expanses of Western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region using seawater piped in from the Bohai Sea, more than 2,200 kilometers (1,360 miles) to the east.

The “Moving Seawater West; Bringing Bohai to Xinjiang” project, if approved, will partially re-fill a series of saltwater lakes in western China's Tarim Basin, near the country's top secret nuclear testing facility at Lop Nur - itself a dry lake bed.

The area was formerly the location of the post-glacial Tarim Lake but cutting of trees for firewood has hastened desertification, and the remnants of the once expansive lake are rapidly drying up.

The consequences do not bode well for the region and the ramifications are affecting eastern China, now subject to annual dust storms of increasing intensity.

The Bohai Sea is an oceanic bay that extends west off the Yellow Sea to China's eastern coastline. In order to facilitate distribution to China's far western province of Xinjiang, water from the Bohai Sea must first be lifted 1,200 meters (3,940 ft) – a formidable task in itself!

Even so, preliminary studies have pegged the cost of diverting water from the Bohai Sea to the Tarim Basin area at about 8 RMB per ton – just over $1.

The “Moving Seawater West; Bringing Bohai to Xinjiang” project is not, as one might expect, intended to provide non-saline drinking water to western China.

Instead, it's hoped that re-flooding the Tarim Basin's lakes will kick-start the region's hydrological cycle. In other words, copious sunlight will cause the water to evaporate, humidifying the air and leading to increased rainfall.

Ideally, the plan will achieve two major goals: controlling the country’s deserts and dust storms, and completely transforming the poor ecological environment of China's northern and western regions. (via Danwei and China Whisper)