Beijing Water

Beijing officials fiddle in face of crisis

(March 28, 2011) Rather than implement the hard-hitting measures needed to turn Beijing’s water shortage around, officials defy logic with a soft approach.

(March 28, 2011) Like the Roman emperor Nero, who fiddled and sang while Rome burned, Beijing officials are similarly preoccupied with trifles when it comes to the city’s water shortage crisis. Rather than focus on hard-hitting measures that will significantly improve the capital’s dwindling water supply, Beijing’s water authority has just announced a voluntary incentive system to conserve resources.

In a preposterously weak effort to promote conservation, officials are offering various financial rewards to districts that save the most water. A confusing news release states: “rewards will be distributed for all water-saving measures, such as water-saving training, water balance test and equipment replacement. The highest award is for the unit who does not consume over 2 million tons of water a year.”

The too-little, too-late incentive scheme does nothing to effect the changes that would provide real improvement. A report by Probe International on Beijing’s water crisis, first published in 2008, urged the government to act fast to curb water demand through the use of economic and legal measures: for instance, increasing the price of water and installing a water industry regulator. The report noted that some state water companies acted as their own regulator.

Probe International also urged the overhaul of Beijing’s vast network of old and leaking water pipes – a plumbing dilemma that is literally wasting its most scarce resource – and rallied for the protection of existing ground water supplies through anti-pollution laws.

Lisa Peryman, Probe International

Read the original Probe International report here

Read Beijing’s water-saving incentive news release here

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