Category: China’s Water

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.

China’s desperate need for water is forcing the relocation of hundreds of thousands of people

(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.”

China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project threatens flood of problems

(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.

China faces its worst economic crisis: water

(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.

Key source in giant Chinese water scheme polluted

(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.

Flow test for water project gets underway

(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.

Netizens against filth

(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.

Missing, no action

(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.

Beijing water experts spurn tap water in private, public confidence plummets

(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?

Residents struggle in China’s “model community” as millions set to be resettled

(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.

Sucking Beijing dry

(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.