Anger Over Water Shortage

Residents of Chongqing in southwestern China are without water in sweltering summer heat.

2011-07-08
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chongqingdrought-305.jpg The bank of the Yangtze River during a drought in Chongqing, May 28, 2011.
AFP

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing have been shipping truckloads of water to beleaguered local residents after hundreds of protesters blocked roads in a northern suburb of the city in protest at severe water shortages, residents and officials said.

"We have never experienced such a long period without water here before," said Huang Hao, a resident of the worst-hit Yubei district.

He said local fire department trucks had been pressed into service to deliver water to the stricken district.

Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper reported last week that tens of thousands of local people had been affected by the water shortages amid the devastating heat of summer.

Chongqing, along with Wuhan and Nanjing, is known in China as one of the "three furnaces," with summer temperatures in excess of 40 C (104 F) and high humidity levels from the nearby Yangtze river.

The paper said more than 1,000 protesters had blocked roads in the district in protest at the lack of water.

Officials 'taking note'

Government officials confirmed that the problem existed.

"We are taking note of this incident," said an employee surnamed Wang who answered the phone at the Yubei district government.

"You will be able to see, if you check online, that the Yubei district government has taken some measures [to deal with the problem]."

"Everything will be announced online when necessary, including news related to Yubei district," the employee said.

The government of Yubei district held an emergency meeting on Wednesday after thousands of residents blocked two major roads in the district, a Yubei government official surnamed Wang said.

The Chongqing Zhongfa Water Supply Co. told the meeting that they had been experiencing water supply problems through lack of water pressure since May, and that this had become worse in July, especially in the outlying suburbs of the city, Wang said.

Strained resources

Huang said Yubei's status as a duty-free port district had prompted a huge influx of people in recent years amid rapid development, straining water resources.

But he said the government's measures are unlikely to stifle criticism among a highly disgruntled population.

"They may have carried out some policies to appease people, but most ordinary people still have a very dim view of their leaders," Huang said.

He called on the local government to take more concrete measures to improve people's lives, rather than "bombarding them with propaganda."

Referring to a recent wave of historical propaganda movies and concerts of revolutionary songs around the 90th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party, Huang said that official rhetoric rings hollow for most people.

"From ordinary people's point of view, the red songs are just a form of entertainment they could easily do without," he said.

"What they really care about is the welfare of the people."

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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