China is considering digging two mega canal systems to link the Yangtze River, which runs through central and eastern China, to the Pearl River in southern Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.

Xinhua reports that the Ministry of Transportation is now studying the feasibility of the project, which would include one canal from Hunan to Guangxi and another connecting Jiangxi and Guangdong.

The two canals, with their respective feeder lines along tributaries of the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers, are part of a new national plan on channel and port construction.

The Yangtze and the Pearl River are China’s longest and third longest rivers respectively. Their estuaries and deltas are home to China’s two major industrial powerhouses and mega-cities.

A night view of the Pearl River in Guangzhou, the largest city in southern China. Photo: Twitter

If given the go-ahead, construction of the two canals could be completed by 2035, they said.

Shipping, tourism, irrigation, water transfer and flood prevention were touted as major benefits from the project, which could dwarf the controversial Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze.

The Chinese government conducted a preliminary survey on routes to link the Yangtze and Pearl River as early as in 1960, but eventually dropped the plan due to financial and technical constraints.

The new canal project comes hot on the heels of the South-North Water Transfer Project. This is a decade-long infrastructure plan to channel 45 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze to Beijing and other northern cities through three giant canal systems.

The eastern route utilizes the course of the Beijing–Hangzhou Grand Canal, while the central route starts from the upper reaches of the Han River, a tributary of the Yangtze, to Beijing and Tianjin, and the western route stretches from the alpine Qinghai to Shaanxi, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia.