Beijing Water

Beijing ‘running out of water’

Richard Spencer
June 27, 2008

Beijing is running out of water, says a report by Probe International.

Beijing is running out of water, an environmental group has claimed in a report which raises more questions over the costs of China’s rapid development.

Such is the extent of the shortage that the city might have to start shutting down industry and moving population out within the next decade.

Six weeks before the Olympics, the report said preparations were making matters worse despite claims that they would be the first “Green Olympics”.

Water was being diverted to new expanses of greenery and waterways around the city even as rivers across central and northern China were being diverted to the capital to provide basic supplies.

The report, Beijing’s Water Crisis: 1949-2008 Olympics, said the Games would consume 200 million cubic metres of water, a million people’s annual supply at current rates of reserves.

“With each new project to tap water somewhere else, demand for water only increases, and at an ever greater cost to China’s environment and economy,” the report, by Canada-based Probe International, said.

Probe has previously questioned China’s approach to water management, which focuses on mega-projects such as the Three Gorges Dam and now the South-North water diversion scheme.

This huge proposal could see three canal networks bringing water up from the River Yangtse and Tibet to replenish the Yellow River south of Beijing, and ultimately the capital itself.

The first phase of the project, a 200-mile northern arm of the central network, is almost complete.

Beijing has no major rivers and draws much of its water from underground, mining deeper every year, and by diverting supplies from rural areas of the surrounding province of Hebei.

Grainne Ryder, Probe’s policy director, said studies predicted that even this could prove inadequate within five to ten years.

“I would imagine it would be a phased shut-down of its economy, an economic collapse,” she said.

Chinese officials acknowledge the extent of the problem, but have been reluctant to implement one of the major reforms recommended by the report – raising prices to encourage efficiency – at a time when urban populations are facing rising food and petrol prices.

Categories: Beijing Water

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