From: Reuters
Published March 30, 2007 12:00 AM

Beijing's Water Thirst Causes Neighbor Problems

BEIJING -- The northern Chinese province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and supplies most of its water, has over-exploited its resources so badly it is suffering subsidence and saline contamination, Xinhua news agency said.

The arid province had just one-seventh the national average of per capita water supplies and for the last 30 years had had to rely more and more on groundwater, Xinhua said, citing an unnamed provincial official.

Hebei also supplies the port city of Tianjin, recently earmarked to become a new growth engine for the Chinese economy with huge investment planned in factories and housing.

Parts of the city of Cangzhou, south of Tianjin, have subsided more than 2 metres (6 ft 6 in) because of over-extraction of ground water, the report said.

And in coastal Qinhuangdao, which will host some football events during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the groundwater has become unpotable due to infiltration of sea water, it added.

Over the last three decades enough water has been extracted in Hebei to fill northern China's largest freshwater lake 200 times over, Xinhua said.

"The expert urged the government to invest more money in environmental protection, and to take water efficiency measures to reduce consumption," it added.

But Beijing's water needs are set to grow, especially with the Olympics opening in less than 500 days' time.

The city is expected to host an extra 2.5 million people during the Games and will need reliable water for drinking, hotel rooms and the belts of greenery being planted along its roads.

Xinhua said on Wednesday a protracted drought over a wide swathe of China is threatening drinking water supplies for 13.4 million people and 12 million cattle.

Source: Reuters

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