Drinking water in Beijing. Or, if the mountain will not come to Muhammad…
Remember that old post about moving Beijing? If you’ve forgotten:
China really should consider moving the capital away from Beijing. Any nation, particularly a major power, should choose a location for its capital that allows growth and can respond to challenges. The historical advantages that led Beijing to become China’s capital no longer exist, and the location’s disadvantages are becoming ever more apparent.
Quenching Beijing’s thirst has already meant tapping the Hai River and water from neighbouring provinces. Now the Han River is to be diverted for a huge project transferring water from the south to the north. The impact of this project on the lower reaches of the Han River should not be underestimated. It will not necessarily solve water problems in the north, but it may well destroy the environment in the south. Beijing may have moved the Shougang steel plant for the sake of its air quality, but it continues to develop water-intensive industry. Why not move the industry and resources where there is more water?
Plan A, however, is still in effect.
The diversion of water to Beijing for the Olympics and for big hydropower projects threatens the lives of millions of peasant farmers in China’s north-western provinces, according to a senior Chinese government official.
In an interview with the Financial Times, An Qiyuan, a member and former chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee for Shaanxi province and former Communist party chief of Shaanxi, warned of an impending social and environmental disaster because of overuse of scarce water resources.
Beijing will need an estimated 300m cubic metres of additional water just to flush out the polluted and stagnant rivers, canals and lakes in its central areas to put on a clean, environmentally-friendly face for Olympic visitors, according to municipal officials.
The average annual per capita water supply in China is 348 cubic metres, well below the global average and the United Nations definition of “water shortage”, which is anything below 1,000 cubic metres. Beijing’s supply is even lower, at 235 cubic metres. Many experts say these shortages are exacerbated by artificially low prices set by the government.
“Beijing is facing a water crisis and it is fighting for water with neighbouring cities, including Tianjin and Zhangjiakou,” said Wang Jian, a Beijing government employee and activist on water issues. “The price of water does not reflect its true value, but the government has decided to control the price in order to maintain a harmonious society in the run-up to the Olympics.”
The government has launched a grandiose $60bn “south to north water diversion project” that will channel about 1.2bn cubic metres of water a year from wetter southern provinces to the country’s arid north.
Well – if we will insist upon our amusing diversions and displacement activities…