Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Troubling News from China

There are a couple of stories that appeared on Yahoo over the last couple of days that are worrisome. I am providing a link and excerpts below.

With regards to the water shortage, maybe this year’s unusual snowfall will have a bright side. When the snow melts in the spring, it will help replenish the water table. Of course, there is only so much water the ground will be able to absorb, and we’ll also see stories about flooding.

It is also fashionable to print stories about how the US is going to be eclipsed by China just around the corner. These estimations leave out one vital fact: we are still the world’s bread basket. I saw a story not too long ago that compared our agricultural output with the rest of the world. I admit the details in my memory are hazy, but were the rest of the world on average put out 2 units (whatever they were) of food per acre, the US was outputting 20.

China will be experiencing some food shortages this year as a result of both the water shortage and the snowfall. In my opinion the government of China wouldn’t normally be too concerned if a few million of her citizens starved to death, but in this year of the Olympics, all eyes will be on China.

China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics is their big PR event. It could well blow up in their faces.

Pollution turns Chinese river system red

By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press WriterWed Feb 27, 3:17 AM ET

Pollution turned part of a major river system in central China red and foamy, forcing authorities to cut water supplies to as many as 200,000 people, the provincial government and a state news agency said Wednesday.

Some communities along tributaries of the Han River — a branch of the Yangtze — in Hubei province were using emergency water supplies, while at least 60,000 people were relying on bottled water and limited underground sources, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Residents in some towns were getting water from fire trucks, the Hubei provincial government said on its Web site.

Five schools were closed in Xingou township, while others could not provide food to students, the Xinhua report said without elaborating.

The pollution was discovered Sunday when water plant workers from Jianli County found that the Dongjing River, a tributary of the Han, had turned red and foamy, the Hubei Web site said.

Water plants along the river suspended intake and cut tap water to as many as 120,000 people, according to reports on the site. Xinhua said 200,000 people were without water.

Tests showed the polluted waters contained elevated levels of ammonia, nitrogen, and permanganate, a chemical used in metal cleaning, tanning and bleaching, Xinhua said. The pollution apparently flowed down from the Han River, the Hubei government said without elaborating on its source.

Olympics highlight Beijing water woes

By HENRY SANDERSON, Associated Press WriterWed Feb 27, 1:28 PM ET

When 16,000 athletes and officials show up this summer, they will be able to turn the taps and get drinkable water — something few Beijing residents ever have enjoyed.

But to keep those taps flowing for the Olympics, the city is draining surrounding regions, depriving poor farmers of water.

Though the Chinese capital's filthy air makes headlines, water may be its most desperate environmental challenge. Explosive growth combined with a persistent drought mean the city of 17 million people is fast running out of water.

Meanwhile, rainfall has been below average since 1999. The result: Water resources per person are 1/30th of the world average, lower even than Israel.

"To ensure the supply for a short period of time shouldn't be a problem, but to keep the long-term sustainable use of resources is a challenge," said Ma Jun, an environmentalist who has written about China's water issues.

In an attempt to ease the water woes, China has turned to a grand engineering feat. Workers are digging up the countryside south of Beijing for a canal that will bring water from China's longest river, the Yangtze, and its tributaries to the arid north by 2010.

The first part of the project is being accelerated to meet anticipated demand from Olympic visitors. By April, the canal is to begin bringing 80 billion gallons a year — an amount equal to the annual water use of Tucson, Ariz. — from four reservoirs in nearby Hebei province.

"I think one of the things the Olympics is showing is it's desperation time and Beijing has the power," said James Nickum, an expert on Chinese water policy issues at Tokyo Jogakkan College in Japan.

In mountainous Chicheng county, about 70 miles northwest of Beijing, dried-out corn stalks stick out of the windblown earth. Farmers limit themselves to two buckets of water a day from icy wells. They are prohibited from tapping what's left in the local reservoir.

The farmers have been ordered to grow only corn, which requires less water but also fetches a lower price than rice or vegetables.

The government offered about $30 in compensation, but farmers say not everyone received it. Too poor to buy coal, they carry discarded corn stalks home on their backs for fuel to heat their homes.

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