Beijing Water

Beijing off the deep end

(May 6, 2011) Beijing really is trying to turn its water dilemma around. This Circle of Blue – Reporting the Global Water Crisis spotlight looks at what action the city’s municipal government is taking to reverse the capital’s water crunch but finds, in spite of acting with speed and authority, current measures are not fast or strong enough. Zhang Junfeng, a Beijing-based engineer and environmental activist, who has been researching Beijing’s water crisis for years, tells Circle of Blue the government still doesn’t clearly recognize the true extent of its problem and seems to think that as long as the country’s GDP is growing, the capital “can just buy the water” it needs. Not realizing that without water, hoped-for growth will falter.

Off the Deep End — Beijing’s Water Demand Outpaces Supply Despite Conservation, Recycling, and Imports

By Nadya Ivanova, Circle of Blue: Reporting the Global Water Crisis

BEIJING—The 200-kilometer drive from Beijing to the Guanting Reservoir in Hebei Province takes you from the urban jungle of China’s capital to the dry farm fields and tumble-down villages of one of the country’s major agricultural regions. On this early December morning, the air is breezy and tinged with cold, and the sun gleams on the frozen Guanting water through thin, wispy clouds.

A farmer, hungry and frustrated, sits by an ice-fishing hole in the reservoir and skittishly lifts his gaze from the pit to make sure there is no one else around. He is nervous. The reservoir is exclusively reserved, according to unwritten rules, for the local government officials. He might get fined more than $US 1,200 (RMB 8,000)—four times his annual salary—for fishing for food for himself and his family.

His uneasy look underlines a widespread, but unspoken, tension. Once a magnet for tourism and booming agriculture, this area of eastern Hebei Province can no longer provide enough water for irrigation. To feed the thirsty Chinese capital, Hebei’s Guanting Reservoir has lost more than 90 percent of its water, and the nearby Yongding River, which filled the entire flood plain in the 1980s, is down to a trickle. The Beijing government is now paying the area to cut back on irrigation, yet farmers say that local authorities don’t give them any of the subsidies that compensate for the losses.

“What can we do? If you don’t let us irrigate our crops, we have no other options [but to fish],” the farmer mutters, declining to give his name before he hurries away.

Read the full report here.

Further Reading

Bankers join environmentalists in alarm over Beijing’s water crisis

Ski resorts gulp Beijing’s water supplies

For an exposé of the seriousness of Beijing’s water crisis, read Probe International’s updated Beijing Olympic Water Report.

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