(April 24, 2014) Chinadialogue’s Beijing editor Liu Jianqiang reviews China’s newly revised environmental protection law which comes into effect in 2015 and represents the first time the law has been revised in 25 years. The new law provides authorities with the tools to dole out harsher punishments and sanctions to polluters, including more heat for officials found to be falsifying data and ducking environmental impact assessments. Under the new law, individual citizens still will not be able to initiate public interest lawsuits and although NGOs will be able to pursue litigation, the number permitted to do so has been capped, most likely in order to prevent a flood of environmental lawsuits in local courts and local authorities from being sued too frequently — which raises the question: what is the point of the law? In any case, says Mr. Liu, China’s environmental problems cannot be blamed solely on the lack of a powerful law but are more “the consequence of weak implementation and failure to hold officials accountable for rampant pollution and ecological destruction. … What good is perfect legislation if our authorities fail to implement it? China’s new law cannot answer this question.”
(April 1, 2014) Li Wufeng, the high-level Chinese minister who died after falling from the 6th floor of his office last month, once briefly served as the assistant general manager of China Three Gorges Project Corporation (CTGPC), the recent target of a two-month corruption probe that angered the Chinese public with its revelations of bidding irregularities, bribery and excessive spending by corporation officials. Li’s sudden death has caused much speculation. A CTGPC insider is quoted in this report as saying meddling by CTGPC leaders and their families in bidding for company projects and interest transfers was an “open secret” and that “even individual retired cadres were involved in the countless corruptions. Now everyone at the CTGPC is in a panic, because everyone was involved.”
(March 28, 2014) Once again, an earthquake has hit the Three Gorges reservoir area and dam officials are reassuring the public that the world’s largest hydropower plant is operating normally. The epicenter of a 4.3-magnitude earthquake struck Zigui County, just 30 km from the Three Gorges Dam at 12:20 a.m. March 27, 2014. Stay tuned while Probe International investigates the cause and effect of this latest tremor.
(March 19, 2014) Companies ‘do not have a right [to expect the compensation] not to be changed.’
China is so bad at conservation that it had to launch the most impressive water-pipeline project ever
(March 17, 2014) Reporter Lily Kuo takes an in-depth look at China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project — the world’s largest water diversion conceived originally by Mao Zedong as a way to relieve North China’s dwindling water resources by “borrowing” from the south of the country. But not even the project’s leaders are pretending the mammoth, ultra-complex, $80-billion scheme will solve China’s water problem. Moreover, it has already created extra problems. Kuo concludes the project is another example of an engineer-dominated government’s fondness for huge-scale vanity projects with a particular weakness for mega-water works. No wonder. Without the man-made institutions — a robust regulatory regime and the rule of law — the Chinese government is bereft of tools to induce the efficient use (and conservation) of water. And so it builds canals and moves water from one watershed to another, creating havoc and perpetuating the problem of China’s crippling water crisis.
(March 17, 2014) Part two of Lily Kuo’s substantial overview of China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project (SNWDP) and its resettlement process. Kuo notes that since 1949, more than 45 million Chinese have been displaced by infrastructure projects and, of those, 12 million have been moved for water schemes. The water projects, she notes, have a particularly depressing record in terms of outcomes for the resettled. Although there are signs, she says, of villagers moved for the SNWDP receiving better care than those in the past, the same old resettlement problems abound. Worst of all, there are no farms to tend and jobs to do. “This isn’t a life,” says one migrant of the soul-destroying joblessness. “In the morning, you see everyone sleeps in. In the afternoon, they play cards. That’s it.”
(February 14, 2014) German-based hydrology expert Wang Weiluo says Beijing’s water scarcity is a manmade disaster that began following the Chinese Communist Party takeover in 1949.
(December 9, 2013) Travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux believes that decades of foreign aid to Africa has hampered the continent’s development.
(October 28, 2013) This excellent report by Agence France-Presse looks at the growing number of drawbacks posed by China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project and asks whether the $80-billion geo-engineering giant is creating more problems than it is supposed to solve. For example, the strong risk of collecting and distributing tainted water from the supply waterways it draws from, which would render the water carried unusable; the energy required to move water uphill for long sections; the displacement of entire communities in large numbers for reservoir construction, as well as the construction feats required to pull off certain aspects of the project’s plans – such as blasting channels through mountains in earthquake zones on the Tibetan plateau. Not to mention the threat posed by construction of this scale in seismically active zones.
(October 12, 2013) This Economist report looks at the gravity of China’s water crisis, once summed up by Wang Shucheng, a former water minister as: “To fight for every drop of water or die: that is the challenge facing China.”
(July 3, 2013) Water woes ranging from polluted drinking water to contaminated groundwater reserves and toxic rivers, to cross-border water disputes with neighbours over transboundary river flows, is moving China towards a catastrophe with “profound implications.” In testimony to the U.S. Senate last week, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia director Elizabeth Economy names industry as the key culprit. The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.com reports.
(July 4, 2013) A new study reveals that sewage treatment facilities in Beijing’s suburbs are below standard and poorly regulated. The absence of tough water protection laws and enforcement is turning Beijing’s townships into regional sources of pollution in a city already overburdened by threats to water safety.
(June 25, 2013) The Danjiangkou Reservoir, a major supply source for China’s high-cost South-North Water Diversion project — slated to provide Beijing with water by 2014 — is heavily polluted with untreated sewage. Lax enforcement of environmental laws and a shortage of funds are making the situation worse, says the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. A deeper problem is the absence of legislation governing water sources, China Daily reports.
(May 31, 2013) The process of diverting water from the Yangtze River through the eastern route of China’s massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project began this week after 11 years since construction began. Although the water diversion intended for drought-prone cities in China’s arid northern regions “will enrich the water supply in the north, its impact on the ecosystem is irreversible,” said Ma Jun, an environmentalist.
(March 27, 2013) Pollution is once again a dire concern in the wake of China’s formal acknowledgement last month of cancer hotspots, known as “cancer villages,” long speculated to be caused by drinking and irrigation water contaminated by industrial chemicals and heavy metals. More recently, unmanageable garbage sites have posed a threat to Beijing’s drinking water supply. As China’s new leadership moves to clean up the country, citizens still lack access to information that would help them help both their health and their environment but that’s not stopping them from Twittering towards change.