(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.
(March 4, 2013) Beneath China’s thirsty farms and cities lies a problem scientists and politicians have known about for more than a decade: groundwater reserves that are depleted and polluted. Grand plans to cover one-third of China’s land area with 20,000 groundwater monitoring stations remain stuck in Beijing. Without monitoring data to influence policy, the problem isn’t taken seriously by government, and business won’t pick up the slack: there’s no profit for money spent on groundwater, save the public health benefit, which no one wants to pay for. Feng Jie reports on China’s groundwater scandal for Southern Weekend.
(February 6, 2013) When Zhao Feihong, an expert on water quality in Beijing, revealed last month that she didn’t drink the city’s tap water herself, and had not for the past 20 years, the news shredded what little public confidence remained in the capital’s drinking water supply. Hasty reassurances from city authorities in an effort to calm renewed concern, only served to heighten suspicion. Many believe that if someone in Zhao’s position, as well as her husband – another water expert and a public official – did not consider Beijing’s tap water fit to drink, why should they?
(January 22, 2013) China’s largest-ever forced relocation effort, in the northwestern gateway province of Shaanxi, is set to transform the lives of more than 2.8 million people over a period of 10 years. The massive migration, even by China’s standards, is currently underway in part to make way for another of the country’s vast infrastructure projects, the enormous south-north water transfer scheme; in part due to environmental degradation – geological instability caused by deforestation, and in part as a result of socioeconomic inevitability – a formidable long-range political objective to urbanize impoverished, rural populations. Drawing on his conversations with migrants, writer Andrew Stokols in this update for Chinadialogue.net, observes the human cost of China’s quest for modernity which has left many migrants struggling to meet new expenses and feeling stung by a loss of independence, purpose and stability.
(November 22, 2012) The construction of a massive water-guzzling, water-based theatrical extravaganza in China’s capital, has many questioning the wisdom of such a project in a city as desperately dry as Beijing. Nevermind ‘House of Dancing Water,’ say experts – including Ma Jun and Hu Kanping – the real leisure threats to the city’s parched reserves are golf courses and hot spring pools.
(November 20, 2012) China’s new leadership faces a number of challenges as the country enters an economic slowdown after decades of economic boom. One of the most pressing obstacles to its continued growth is water, and the lack of it. A report by Geoff Hiscock for CNN warns that China’s water vulnerability makes the country less able to withstand shocks like inflation, droughts or other natural disasters. Unless steps are taken to overhaul its water usage and supply and green its industrial operations, Hiscock says, “China risks social dislocation that could undo much of its progress.” The following report by Olga Khazan for the Washington Post provides a rundown of the water stresses China’s changing of the guard will inherit.
(October 16, 2012) A new report by Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC) warns that water shortages in China could undermine power production by water-intensive thermal generators and hydro dams, putting economic growth at risk, especially in the metals and mining, utilities, and manufacturing sectors. Allocating water resources by decree in China’s planned economy is unlikely to work, predicts HSBC’s strategist Wai-Shin Chan. Investors should beware and attempt to estimate the effect of looming shortages on the life of their assets: without water security, investors could be left stranded.
(August 24, 2012) Although the Three Gorges dam project was completed this year, the relocation of residents remains an ongoing concern due to the threat of landslides in the dam’s reservoir region. For some, this new round of resettlement will not be the first time they have been forced to move in relation to the dam: known as “Three Gorges’ immigrants,” a Reuters visit to the site reveals the much vaunted promises of the massive project have instead brought a deterioration in water quality, prospects and well being.
(August 16, 2012) The aftermath of a terrible storm that brought China’s capital to a standstill in July, has left Beijing pockmarked by sinkholes. The city’s ancient, leaking infrastructure and its grossly deficient drainage system could not modify the impacts of the severe deluge but at the heart of the sinkhole scourge is yet another structural failing: Beijing’s dysfunctional and unaccountable civil administration.
(July 30, 2012) As Beijing’s dramatic flood disaster unfolded, the people of Beijing did not wait for the government to step up—which, by all accounts, it did not—citizens instead relied on people power: a growing phenomenon, animated by social media, that portends winds of change for China’s political elite.
(July 27, 2012) The force of a powerful storm that struck Beijing over the weekend has exposed massive flaws in the capital city’s antiquated plumbing infrastructure. Chinese authorities in Beijing now face a firestorm of criticism from citizens demanding to know why their drainage system—famously defined as a city’s conscience by French writer Victor Hugo—was neglected for so long. The weekend flooding has also brought into question the official death toll, which many feel the government is downplaying to offset blame for the city’s poor emergency response to a disaster that could have been more manageable.
(July 17, 2012) No city in China provides safe tap water to all of its residents, claims a new report by Caixin Online. Water treatment is too costly for city budgets, say some officials; others say even when properly treated, water pollution and old pipes compromise tap water.
(July 12, 2012) Almost 20 years in the making, China’s Three Gorges mega-dam was declared complete on July 4 when the last of its 32 generators went online, 10 years after the first turbine went into operation. There is no end in sight, however, for costs associated with the vast and controversial project, which remains closer to disaster than triumph.
(June 13, 2012) In this instalment of Weibo Watch: In March, Beijing announced it would build Asia’s largest trash incineration plant. In Yunnan, April was an especially cruel month: 273 rivers dried up, leaving people to weep as they tended to their fields. Meanwhile, the monitoring of PM2.5 fine particulate air pollution has stepped up in China as pressure mounts to reduce particulates and the causes of air-borne pollution.
(June 6, 2012) Reporter Shi Jiangtao sounds the alarm on China’s dam-building frenzy along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, revisiting the findings of the 2011 Probe International study, “A Mighty River Runs Dry,” by geologist Fan Xiao.