Voices from China

Dried Taiyuan

(June 8, 2011) On a visit to Taiyuan in northern China, the author stops to admire a river that flows through the city and later, a magnificent river-fed fountain, only to discover: the fountain is fake and the river dried up.

By Yan Ying

Yan Ying realizes you can't believe what you see, on a visit to Taiyuan.

This spring, I went to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, and was struck by the Fen – a deep blue river that flows through the city, slowly and quietly. People spend their leisure time walking along its shore, exercising their dogs, chatting with friends and enjoying the sights.

One day, I took a taxi to Jin Temple, 25 kilometres from the downtown area. This temple is famous for its fountain, the first in Shanxi. When I reached Ever Young Spring, as the fountain is called, I saw water bubbling up to form a magnificent column. But later, I was shocked to learn from a tour guide that the real river-fed fountain had dried up in 1994! The water I saw was artificially pumped. This depressed me. Immediately, I wondered: is there a shortage of water in Taiyuan? But then I remembered a taxi driver telling me that a section of the Fen River had been preserved, but only for the purpose of urban beautification. According to the driver, the upper reaches had been dammed and the source of the river had dried up.

On the taxi ride back downtown, I looked out at the Fen for a long time. An artificial fountain and a dried river … Indeed, Taiyuan does have a water shortage!

What are people to do about such a water shortage? I recall seeing many signs along the streets instructing people to conserve water. Apparently, people have realized that they are running out of water but signs are not enough – although they are important and help to educate. In my view, the city government should control water use by increasing the price of water; perhaps limiting further city expansion if necessary. After all, the faster the city develops the more water users it will need to support.

Taiyuan’s water crisis must be solved by everyone. It cannot be achieved overnight, but with the effort of all, I hope to see this beautiful city’s river flow naturally once again.

Yan Ying, born in Beijing in 1979, worked as a program coordinator with Global Village of Beijing – a non-governmental organization dedicated to environmental protection and community education. She now works as an international business assistant for a medical company in Beijing which specializes in in-vitro diagnostics using immunoassay systems.

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