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 Baoding, 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.


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