From: Reuters
Published September 14, 2006 12:00 AM

Drought-Prone Beijing Must Cap Population Growth

BEIJING — China's drought-prone capital must curb its rapid population growth or risk running out of water, local media reported on Thursday.

Chinese environmental officials have dubbed Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympics, the driest major city on the planet.

Already a magnet for thousands of students and migrant workers from impoverished rural areas, Beijing is expected to host an extra 2.5 million people during the Games.

The city's population had grown from 13.7 million to 15.4 million in the past five years, but should be capped at 16 million in 2010 and 20 million in 2020, the Beijing News said, citing a Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission report.

Annual population growth would have to be kept to 200,000 to guarantee adequate drinking water, the daily reported.

Drought in 44 percent of the municipality had further strained water supplies to the city proper, the China Daily reported, despite above-average summer rainfall this year.

"The parched capital had largely escaped the worst drought in 50 years that hit some areas," the paper quoted Tang Guang, a meteorological bureau official, as saying.

"However, it has returned immediately to drought conditions as rainfall over the past month is down 80 percent from the same period last year," Tang said.

Beijing plans to pump water north from the Yellow River to guarantee water supplies during the Olympics -- part of a greater project known as the South-North water diversion scheme in which water from the Yangtze river is diverted north via canals.

On Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported that just one section of one of the three canals in the scheme -- the 1,277-km (760-mile) middle canal spanning the central province of Henan -- would cost 67 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) and require relocation of 212,000 people.

The entire North-South scheme is expected to cost more than 200 billion yuan ($25.2 billion), but environmentalists have raised doubts about the project given serious pollution in China's southern waterways. ($1 = 7.944 yuan)

Source: Reuters

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