coloured water.jpgAthletes
and visitors to next year's Beijing Olympics' central area will be able
to drink the tap water. That is is the proud promise of the Beijing
Water Authority in this China Daily story.

But what about the 7.4m people who live outside the 2.9 sq km cordon sanitaire that the BWA has thrown up around the Olympics area?

Visitors to China are routinely advised not to drink the tap water
and its no ideal threat. The combination of pollution and poor water
management means 600m Chinese drink contaminated water while 60m do not
have a dependable supply.

Jim Rogers, the investment guru, recently warned that if China does
not develop new sources of water very quickly, it could cripple its
future development — see this earlier story.

For those who can afford it, the solution is to drink bottled water or install a water filter — see this EngagingChina post for how one western company, Pionetics, is promoting a  new water filter technology in China.

But that still means having to bathe in water of uncertain quality
and, in some parts of China, the defficiencies are all too visible.
Shanghai-based blogger Image Thief in this tongue-in-cheek post, complains that the tap water in Shanghai is distinctly yellow.

The BWA, nevertheless, says there is nothing wrong with the quality
of the water in Beijing, at least when it leaves its plants. It pins
the blame on the old pipes that are used to transport the water to
Beijing's population and says that it is now working to upgrade 2,000
water supply facilities across the city. It is also building new sewage
treatment plants and says 90% of Beijing's waste water is now treated.

Beijing is promoting next year's sporting event as the “green
Olympics” and it is pulling out all the stops to present Beijing as a
clean and environmentally-sustainable city of the future. In a recent
environmental action plan, it announced a battery of measures to clean
up the city and reduce its voracious appetite for resources.

These include closing heavily polluting businesses, speeding up the
development of the service sector and industrial clusters and parks,
energy conservation projects for government operations and pollution
reduction efforts.

Sounds great on paper, but it remains to be seen whether this action plan can really make Beijing better place to live.

A decade ago, a similarly well-intentioned project was launched to
to clean up the river Huai, one of the country's most polluted
waterways. About $2bn was spent on the effort but in 2004, China's
environmental protection agency called the project a failure and
estimated an effective cleanup would cost $100bn.

Thanks to the Guardian for the picture,
which shows a colourful selection of water samples collected by
environmental activist Wu Yilong from Chinese urban rivers and lakes.
In 1999, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for “incitement to
subvert state power”.

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