Damage could be worse than Three Gorges: expert A top archaeologist yesterday attacked the Ministry of Water Resources for delaying the funding to protect hundreds, if not thousands, of cultural relics along the massive South-North Water Transfer Project. Liu Qingzhu, director-general of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the project was going to damage more relics than the Three Gorges Dam did if measures were not urgently taken to ensure their safety. Speaking at a CPPCC panel discussion, Professor Liu said he was particularly worried about the Grand Canal, which archaeologists have often deemed to be as great an ancient structure as the Great Wall. The eastern route of the project - to be completed in 2007 - intends to make use of the existing infrastructure of the Grand Canal to transfer water from Jiangsu province to Tianjin city . 'The project will widen the canal and it might destroy the ancient piers and structures along the canal,' he said. 'Once they dig the canal channel and remove the piers, many of these precious structures will be damaged.' The Ministry of Water Resources only started planning for preservation last year, two years after the government decided to go ahead with the project. 'It is against the law to start a project without planning for the conservation of cultural relics. What they did has violated the law,' he said. 'There are only a few years left, but there is no money for the research and preservation. Although the Ministry of Water Resources promised to set aside funding for this, local officials are still paying from their pockets.' Almost 300 cultural relic sites in Henan and Hebei alone would be damaged by the central route of the project by 2010 if no urgent measures were taken to rescue them, he said.