Yesterday morning I was running on the treadmill at the gym watching the television screen above.
The ongoing seven-month drought in Southwest China is a depressing storyline. There are stark images of riverbeds and lakebeds barren and cracked up, even fish caught in the dried-up mud.
People haven't had tap water in months and have to trudge many kilometers to wells that have some water left at the very bottom. Even children have to help out carrying several kilograms of water once or twice a day, walking over hilly terrain.
And there are some who collect muddy water and wait for it to settle before using it to wash their faces and feet before giving it to the livestock to drink.
There was one story where a small CCTV crew followed behind a truck filled will boxes of Wahaha water in Guizhou. It had a red banner with white words saying it was helping with drought relief.
The truck eventually arrives at a school in Guizhou Province and the students clapped when the vehicle stopped in the school yard. The kids formed a line, transferring the boxes one by one onto a pile. I had assumed that each child would get a box. I was wrong -- their names were called out and each child received two 350ml bottles of water. It was unclear in the story if all the bottles of water were handed out, or if the children could get more bottles later.
Nevertheless, there were the shots of smiling happy children clutching their two precious bottles of water.
Another story showed a highschool student who saved extra water in a two-litre bottle and then trudged a long distance into the hills to give the water to an old woman who lived in a remote area. The girl handed the water to the aged woman, who just grabbed it without much thanks and then promptly poured it into her water basin and gave back the empty bottle to the student.
While the girl was doing a good deed, it was strange to see the old woman seeming ungrateful for the liquid relief.
The bigger question is, what is the government doing about the drought? Tens of millions of people are directly affected, and not only do they not have enough water to drink, but can hardly grow any crops to subsist, let alone feed themselves.
The army has come into some areas and set up pipes and wells, but this is only a short-term measure. Is this climate change at its worst, or is it natural resources horribly mismanaged?
The government cannot keep trucking water into these areas. There needs to be rain despite the government's efforts in cloud seeding. This either shows China cannot manipulate the weather, or it refuses to cooperate, after tinkering with it for years.
Meanwhile the controversial North-South water diversion project is meant to pipe water from the Yangzte to the parched northern areas including Beijing and Tianjin.
Construction has already started on the $62 billion project, but some experts say this is going to create greater havoc. Again China is manipulating Mother Nature, who can and will be a force to reckon with. And who will suffer for it later?
Chinese media often say the country is battling the drought, but it seems to be losing rather than winning the fight.