July 1, 2008
We have heard about China’s air quality and pollution woes recently in the media , especially as the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games approaches. A new report released last week adds yet another dimension to China’s environmental concerns.
According to a report entitled Beijing’s Water Crisis: 1949—2008 Olympics, published by Probe International, China’s policy of transferring water from draught-ridden neighborhoods to the nation’s capital in order to meet water needs for the upcoming Olympics is harming China’s environment and local farming economies.
Moreover, the abuse of water supplies contradicts the games’ “green” theme and supposed commitment to sustainability.
Beijing’s planning committee has promoted the concept of a “Green Olympics” by touting its support for planting trees, capturing rainwater to water indoor plants, banning plastic shopping bags and promoting the Olympic Village’s green buildings.
Still, to provide drinkable tap water in the Olympic Village, Beijing has been pumping water from four recently built reservoirs in the nearby rural province of Hebein, an already water-deprived area where water takings has meant less water for its citizens and farmers. Some farmers there have had to altogether halt the cultivation of certain crops. Those water transfers are likened to “quenching thirst by drinking poison,” as stated in a press release, because they have created more problems than done good.
Government officials claim that the transfers are necessary due to the combination of below-average rainfall, contamination in Beijing’s waterways and the rapid rate of development and population growth in the city. Officials even predict that more water will have to be diverted from other sources, such as the Yangtze River, by 2010 to support the needs of the growing city’s 17 million inhabitants.
Rather than continue to take water from nearby provinces and farming communities, the Probe International report recommends “better governance of water resources and the water industry, including restrictions on urban development and water-guzzling industries, enforcement of anti-pollution laws, tradable water rights, and UK-style regulation of water utilities.”
Probe International is a Canadian public interest research group that monitors the economic and environmental effects of foreign aid and export credit and has also published oral histories on Beijing’s water and the Three Gorges dam.
Categories: Beijing Water
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