Millions Forfeit Water to Olympic Games

The Times gives a dramatic account of drought experienced by farmers in Hebei allegedly brought on by the diversion of their water supplies to Beijing for the Olympics:

The blunders began when officials started to worry that Beijing might not have enough water to cope with 500,000 visitors to the Olympics. There was talk of a 30% spike in demand. Their gaze turned to Hebei province, its fields ripe with vegetables, corn and rice, providing a good living for its huge rural population.

Decrees were issued, targets were set and engineers scurried to complete a “100day struggle” to build almost 200 miles of channels and pipes to Beijing. These will form part of a gigantic project to bring the waters of the Yangtze River to the drought-stricken plains of northern China. Meanwhile, four strategic reservoirs in Hebei, around the city of , were filled to the brim.

Accounts differ of what happened next. Some farmers say the price of water was raised by 300% to put it beyond their reach. Others simply say that their irrigation channels ran dry. As subterranean water levels fell, their wells collapsed, fields were abandoned, mud-brick farm houses stood empty.

August 25, 2008 3:26 PM
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