"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Friday, July 04, 2008

Peking's dwindling water supplies and the effect on the Olympics .....

Current concerns over the Chinese coastal waters plagued by a foul smelling green algal bloom off Qingdao, as a result of warmer waters, increased rainfall and high levels of nutrients which could affect the Olympic sailboat events from August 9th -23rd , (285,000 tons of the algae have been removed to date ) misses a deeper problem the Peking region is having obtaining fresh water supplies.

Canadian based environmental activists , Probe International have just produced a report on Peking's water supply (Per capita water availability: declined from 1,000 cubic metres in 1949 to less than 230 cubic metres in 2007 -Total water use: 3.25 billion cubic metres (2007))identifying the major concerns resulting from decades of short sighted policies,that have degraded watersheds, and which place a reliance on big engineering projects to keep the water flowing to meet accelerating residential consumer demand as living standards rise at the expense of industry and agriculture.... and act as a back drop to the Olympic charade.

The report has been edited with the help of Dai Qing (Daughter of a revolutionary martyr, former missile technician and one time intelligence agent) who was famously jailed for 10 months (she published "Yangtze! Yangtze!, "a collection of essays, interviews and petitions ) criticising the Government over the massive Three Gorges Dam project.... a others who helped have sought anonymity. (see NYT report)

Principal concerns are the diversion of water from farming in provinces around the capital, rapid depletion of groundwater, much of it for massive waterscapes and musical fountains for the anticipated Olympic crowds. It is calculated all this will increase this years water usage by 200 million cubic metres, about 5 % above normal water usage for this year.

One major ( and expensive ) project is the US$65 Mn. diversion of water from the Wenyu River through a specially built 13 Km. tunnel to flood the Chaobai riverbed which has been dry for a decade - Prior to diversion, water from Wenyu will require treatment because much of the river is ranked Category V, which means it is too polluted for any human use, including irrigation.(see Page 29 !)

This river will simply form part of the Olympic village landscape and is intended for use for the rowing events - let's hope they don't fall in. In the 2007 warm-up competition, Chaobai’s dried-up riverbed was blocked with two rubber dams at either end and filled with groundwater.(Page 31 lists the fountains, scenic lakes etc., being constructed)

Chaobai river was dammed in the '60's by the Miyun dam and reservoir (Officially nicknamed the "Bright Pearl of the Yanshan Mountain."), which delivers water to Beijing city through a 95-kilometre-long canal) solely to to be used for the Olympic rowing events. The resevoir was initially fouled by Tourist development and when that was stopped, by fish farming which became a health hazard - yes fish do shit in the water.

As an aside from fresh water the waste from Peking is sent seaward by the 1,300 year old Grand Canal, which links Peking to Hangzhou in the south. Beiyun served as a major transportation waterway for the nation’s capital until the early 20th century. Since the construction of railways, however, Beiyun no longer functions as a transportation route and has become a major drainage channel instead, earning it the nickname “Beijing paiwu he” or Beijing’s sewer. Year-round, Beiyun receives a high volume of industrial wastewater and domestic sewage. Beiyun flows 38 kilometres through Beijing then into Hebei province before joining the Hai River at Dahongqiao (Great Red Bridge) in Tianjin municipality.

Residential consumption has grown 10 fold in the last decade and represents some 40% of total use.. more than for either agriculture or industry. (Water consumption: domestic (39%), agriculture (38%), industry (20%), urban environment (3%))Since 1949, the population of Beijing has grown from roughly 4 million to 17 million, making it China’s second largest city after Shanghai.

Northern China is very arid and has seen rainfall for the last decade 30% below historical averages. Water extracted from underground water tables is not being replenished as fast as extraction leading to irreversable shrinkage. The hot dry eastern summer winds from the Gobi evaporate a great deal of surface water , Kunming Lake in the Imperial Palace requires filling 4 times a year

To meet these demands in the capital, adjoining provinces have been affected , Hebei claims irrigation waters have been cut and industrial projects hit and they have had to call for supplies (and pay) from Shandong.

Even so, Beijing’s 200 or so rivers and streams are drying up and many of the city’s smaller reservoirs are nearly empty. More than two-thirds of the city’s water supply now comes from groundwater, extracted some 1,000 metres or more underground and retained in 5 underground reservoirs. In launching the report at the Foreign Correspondents Club of China Dai Qing says there is no stopping the city government’s plans for further expansion.

Grainne Ryder, policy director at Probe International points out that these problems did not start nor will they finish with the Olympics. The Olympics have however, accelerated the move to expand supplies -- that is not sustainable -- which is costly (and when has that worried City Fathers anywhere ?) which will inevitably lead to a drive for more wasteful and profligate consumption."

Decades ago, planners’ decided to meet the capital’s mounting demands for water by investing in huge infrastructure projects that would divert water from the country’s rivers in the south up north via a complicated system of canals and aqueducts.

The most ambitious plan -- the South to North Water Diversion -- was first proposed by late communist leader (and famous swimmer) Mao Zedong in 1952 and approved by the government in 2001. Its eastern route is projected to supply Beijing with one billion cubic metres of water a year by 2010, pumped from the Yangtze River along a 1,277 km canal.

If all three routes of this project are completed, as much as 48 billion cubic metres of water will be diverted from the Yangtze. The project’s total cost is estimated to be at least US$60 Bn. -- Double the (admitted) cost of the US$28 Bn. for the Three Gorges Dam.

"South-North diversion proponents talk of quenching Beijing’s thirst with ‘surplus’ water from the Yangtze, as if draining China’s longest river -- Shanghai’s water supply -- would have little or no economic or environmental consequence for the millions of people in southern and south-western China."

In January, Chinese engineers began diverting water from the Yellow River to boost the capital’s dwindling supplies. Up to 150 million cubic metres of water are projected to flow 400 kilometres to lake Baiyangdian, south of Beijing, before the Olympics. Four newly constructed reservoirs in upstream Hebei province are expected to supply an additional 400 million cubic metres of water to Beijing in time for the Olympics.

"But even if all of these projects are completed and water indeed flows as projected Beijing would still need to pump an excessive amount of underground water," Ryder reckons. She predicts that the Chinese capital will run out of water in five to 10 years and would be faced with the difficult choices of moving the capital entirely or shutting down industries and resettling part of its population. "I would imagine it would be a phased shutdown of its economy, an economic collapse," she suggests.

Grainne Ryder has an apocalyptic vision that "... even if all of these projects are completed and water indeed flows as projected Beijing would still need to pump an excessive amount of underground water," She predicts that the Chinese capital will run out of water in five to 10 years and would be faced with the difficult choices of moving the capital entirely or shutting down industries and resettling part of its population. "I would imagine it would be a phased shutdown of its economy, an economic collapse," she suggests.

People who shoud definitely read this report include ;

1. All Athletes, officials, hangers on, journalists and others participating in this grossly commercial spectacle to see the devastating cost to the environment.

2. Anyone including the above involved in planning the London Olympics - not that you can expect them to take any notice.

3. Any visitors to peking, now and in the future to fully understand the costs of the water spectacles in money, degrading the envronment, it's affect on agriculture, food supplies and also industry.

... and if you are going , take some water purification tablets, lay in, on arrival a healthy stock of bottled water. Do not whatever the temptation enter any water, anywhere and to wash very carefully, do not use ice cubes, nor eat salads.

A tremendous read that graphically illustrates the price of Chinese expansion. Read it. NOW

The Great Helmsman was a lifelong swimmer and despite the pleas of security guards, his doctor and lady fiends , he swam in the heavily polluted rivers of south China, drifting miles downstream with the current, head back, stomach in the air, hands and legs barely moving, unfazed by the globs of human waste gliding gently past. "Maybe you're afraid of sinking," he would chide his companions if they began to panic in the water. "Don't think about it. If you don't think about it, you won't sink. If you do, you will."

For the old man of the revolution, the swim was a call to China's younger generation to dive into a political struggle against "counterrevolutionary" party bureaucrats.

If the ageing Chairman could conquer the mighty Yangtze, surely the nation's youth could brave the winds and waves of a political storm and overthrow Mao's opponents.

Also read Probe's "The Lost Rivers of the Forbidden City"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I would venture to say that of all billions spent over the last 40 years or so on the Olympics, China will actually get a bang for their buck, unlike whatosever, a totally corrupt 2012 Olympics on top of a tiphead of Rule Brittania.

(C) Very Seriously Disorganised Criminals 2002/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 - copy anything you wish