Script: Listening Plus - The drought of Pearl River Delta

Timothy Chui
Timothy Chui |

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TIM: Hi this is listening plus. You’re with Timothy Chui and today we’ll be speaking with South China Morning Post reporter Joyce Ng about a spate of water woes affecting Southern China. Thanks for joining us Joyce.

JOY: You’re welcome.

TIM: First off, what has triggered the recent droughts in Guangdong?

JOY: Well first of all, there is this climate reason. The Hong Kong Observatory says the El Nino this year has actually caused fewer typhoons hitting the south China coast region because typhoons are coming all the way to Japan and Taiwan so fewer typhoons means lower rainfall so that’s what triggered the drought.

But there is also another argument as our paper reported two weeks ago. Some researchers say there is a link between dams and drought, meaning along the Yangtze River there are lots of dams for hydro power generation and the authorities are actually racing to fill up reservoirs for the dry season so that they have enough water for generating power. So that means water is stored in the reservoirs instead of for peoples’ general use for drinking and irrigation. So that’s another argument for the drought.

TIM: What have been the impacts?

JOY: The scenario in Macau and Zhuhai is actually worse because we’re talking about the Pearl River Delta and the Pearl River. There are two tributaries so on the western side, that s the west river affecting Macau and Zhuhai, and the salt tide problem is very serious.
Salt tide is actually a perennial problem for Guangdong in the dry season when sea water seeps inland because freshwater flow is too weak to force the sea water back. So the drinking water becomes polluted and they have salt water running from the tap. So Zhuhai’s having emergency water rationing and because Macau depends on Zhuhai to supply drinking water so the government has launched some measures to encourage citizens to conserve water so for example, families consuming water less than their usual amount will have some subsidies like 50 Patacas per household and then free bottled water will be distributed to the disabled and elderly in nursing homes.

TIM: What are the implications for Hong Kong?

JOY: For Hong Kong, 80 percent of our water resources comes from Dongguan or the East River. So we’re actually affected by the drought although we don’t sense it. Water still comes from the taps but actually lawmakers and the Hong Kong government were thinking about giving an offer to the Guangdong government say well we’ll take less water from the East River. So it’s like some sort of spiritual support they say, but then just two days ago the Guangdong government declined our offer saying, “We’ll your only taking 3 percent of water so there’s no such need, thank you very much.” But then, although life goes on as usual, some academics and green groups in Hong Kong say this drought is actually the time we should think about strengthening our conservation plan the Water Supplies Department has had last year and so its now urged they should step up conservation and also more importantly to open up new resources such as water desalinization project and also recycling grey water meaning waste water in the kitchen and spas.

TIM: What has been some other concerns?

JOY: According to an opinion poll by the Guangzhou public opinion research centre, they interviewed some 2,000 people living in the nine cities in the delta and found that 60 percent of them are also worried about the water quality. they think the water resources are too polluted and a quarter of them dare not drink it and they’re saying they’re buying bottled water for cooking and drinking and there is also almost 40 percent of people saying they have developed some unusual symptoms because of the poor water quality like asthma, cold, sore throats and even depression.

TIM: Thank you very much Joyce

JOY: You’re welcome.