Wednesday, May 20, 2009

China's Water Crisis

The good thing about living in Beijing is that on the whole, the
infrastructure works.

Also, because it is the capital, and where the country's highest
officials live, you can be sure the utilities work, food is relatively
safe to eat and scams minimized.

Last week I paid my water bill (both hot and cold) for use in my new
apartment for one month. The amount? 30.40 RMB ($4.65).

When I vacated my other apartment, I paid my water bill for the past
two years that amounted to about 480 RMB ($70).

While the government implements strict regulations on when gas heaters
can be turned on (November 15) and air conditioning turned on only
when it's boiling hot, water seems to be frivolously used and wasted.

Meanwhile the capital and the surrounding areas are getting thirstier
and the nearby areas have to quench their needs.

Before the Olympics last year, water was being diverted from Hebei
Province, draining the area of most of its water to grow crops.

And now that the Three Gorges Dam is practically completed, another
project is underway, more than twice as expensive and three times
longer than the railway to Tibet, called the South-North Water
Diversion Scheme.

In Jiaozuo, Henan Province, massive tunnels are being built to
transport water from under the Yangzte River and send the H2O up to
parched areas in the north.

The scheme was proposed in 1962 and approved by Mao Zedong, but only
now was there money to fund the 500 billion RMB project.

However, there are ecological, financial and political concerns may
delay the project or even shelve it -- a sign that perhaps this scheme
is too big for China to handle properly.

The ecological concerns seem the greatest. A 2008 Xinhua report cited
4 billion tons of industrial waste and sewage were pumped into the
river system, making 83 percent of the water too contaminated to drink
without treatment.

But places like Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei demand a total of 9 billion
cubic metres of water annually, and water tables are falling, rivers
are drying up. How can that be when the population -- while the
biggest in the world -- has not increased exponentially in the last 30

Water treatment plants would seem like a good idea, but apparently
they are too expensive. More needs to be done to stop industries from
polluting the river -- but that requires uncorrupt officials to
monitor them closely and punish them if they find fault.

Also, I had read in an article that so much water was being wasted in
transporting water to irrigate the fields, that this also has to be
looked into and improved as soon as possible.

We as the world, not only China, cannot afford to waste water,
especially potable water.

More needs to be done to protect water resources and to educate people
about not wasting water. Maybe it means raising the price of water or
mandating people (in the cities) can only use a certain amount.

Almost two weeks ago the head of the Beijing water resources bureau
said water prices would be increased, but details would be released...
in two months. The aim would be for Beijing to reduce its water
consumption to 3.58 cubic metres this year. Good luck with all those
plants and trees to water as well...

A few months ago, my uncle told me that my grandmother used to use the
water to rinse rice and use it to wash dishes because the starch got
rid of the grease. Maybe it's time we be made more aware of how
critical water is and that we not waste it.

With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think China would try to make
sure all of its citizens have access to clean water, but a large
number don't. While it's good to give them jobs, people also need to
survive with basic necessities in order to function daily...

1 comment:

ks said...

From what i saw last year Beijing have made big strides in its infrastructure. All this thanks to the Olympic games.