Photography, from the Yangtze to Thirsty Beijing

At China Dialogue, a slideshow by Olli Geibel documents the precarious state of Beijing’s water resources, while The Guardian reports the launch of Nadav Kander‘s “Yangtze – The Long River”, a book of photographs from his 4,100 mile journey up the length of the river:

The Yangtze “is a metaphor for constant change”, as Kander puts it, and also a literal indicator of the destruction and devastation China is visiting on its land and its people as it ruthlessly pursues economic development on an unprecedented scale. It is the world’s third-largest river and its banks are home to more people than live in the USA. Or, to put it another way, one in every 18 people on Earth lives along the Yangtze ….

In his introduction to the book, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan tells another tale: “It is estimated that millions of people do not have access to drinking water in China, yet nearly half of the nation’s waste water is absorbed by the Yangtze, thus rendering it unfit for drinking. Toxins are destroying marine life; entire ecosystems are being altered or destroyed. The river, rank with pollution, is slowly dying.”

Geibel’s images tell a similar story of a resource in ever greater demand, even as pollution diminishes available supplies:

[Beijing] municipality’s two largest reservoirs, Miyun and Guanting, now hold barely 10% of their original water volume. Guanting, moreover, is so polluted that it has not been used as a source of drinking water since 1997. Just 10 years ago, the islands now visible in the Miyun reservoir were submerged under more than 30 metres of water.

As well as feeding Beijing’s taps, Miyun also pumps water to numerous treatment plants for purification and bottling, putting additional strain on the reservoir’s resources.

See also: a previously featured Guardian piece on Kander’s work, which is the subject of an exhibition in London open until November 13.

October 20, 2010 9:36 PM
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