China Begins Relocating 330,000 People for Water Project

About 500 villagers in central China have said good-bye to their homes for good as a first step in a massive water diversion project.

They are the first of about 330,000 people to move in China's largest relocation effort since more than 1 million people were moved to make way for the Three Gorges Dam.

The official Xinhua news agency said the villagers in Hubei province enjoyed a government-sponsored final dinner the night before, boarding 13 buses Wednesday for the trip to their new homes 300 kilometers away.

A total of 60,000 people are to be relocated by September 30 to clear the way for the South-North Water Diversion Project, which will siphon water from the Yangtze River to drought-prone cities in northern China such as Beijing and Tianjin.

Xinhua said the homes abandoned Wednesday (in Niuhelin district of Danjiankou city) eventually will be submerged under 170 meters of water.

China relocated at least 1.27 million people when building the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project that was completed in 2006.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Xinhua