Thursday, May 10, 2007

Games before Rice

Communist China has been issuing new rules almost every single day for the past six months to meet their Olympic standard. Today's rule is pretty harsh -- don't grow rice! What is a farmer to do to sustain himself and his family?Does anybody care? The Beijing elite surely don't.

Rice planting banned near Beijing

BEIJING, May 9: Rice farmers have been told to stop growing China's staple crop in areas near Beijing to ensure the water supply for next year's Olympic Games, officials said on Wednesday.

Rice-growing requires large supplies of water and eight years of drought have left the Chinese capital desperately short of supplies, they said. "We know Beijing is a big city with a serious shortage of water," said Bi Xiaogang, vice director of Beijing's water management bureau. "We have urged farmers to change some of the crops that need a lot of water, like rice."

He gave no details about the number of farmers nor the area of rice paddy affected, but said the farms were located around a reservoir north of the capital on which Beijing relies for much of its water. "This endeavour has received the understanding of the farmers and it is proceeding smoothly," he said. In many areas of drought-stricken northern China, rice growing has been banned for years.

Beijing also has a water quality problem but Bi promised that drinkable tap water would be piped into the apartments of athletes and officials taking part in the 2008 Olympic Games from August 8-24. "In recent years we have intensified efforts to improve drinking water quality in Beijing," he said. "But it is still not safe to drink from the tap here."

The problem is not the water produced by purifying plants but the supply chain to the consumer, he said. State media said recently that there was only enough water in Beijing to adequately supply a little more than 14 million people in 2005, but at the end of last year the city had some 15 million permanent residents and four million migrant workers.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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