Beijing to hike water price to fight shortage: report

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The Independent Online

Authorities in China's capital plan to raise water prices by just under a quarter in a bid to discourage residents from wasting the resource and to ease severe shortages, state media said Wednesday.

For years northern China has been battling a water shortage that experts say is caused by global warming, drought and rising demand from 96 million people who live in booming areas in and around Beijing.

The price of water for residential use will rise from 3.7 yuan (54 cents) to 4.6 yuan a cubic metre, according to a plan by the Beijing Municipal Development and Reform Commission, cited by the official Xinhua news agency.

Under the proposal, the government will offer subsidies to low-income families who would not be able to afford the hike, and a public hearing will be held this month to solicit residents' opinions, the report said.

Beijing's total water consumption in 2008 was 3.5 billion cubic metres, according to government figures. Environmental groups have long warned the city's water situation is critical.

Probe International, a leading development policy group, said in June last year that China's capital could run out of water in five to 10 years, a situation that could lead to economic collapse.

Official data shows that the available water supply in Beijing amounts to just 300 cubic metres (10,500 cubic feet) per person a year, according to Xinhua, well below common international standards.

As a result, China is building the hugely ambitious South-North Water Diversion Project, the central canal of which will stretch 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) from a tributary of the Yangtze river to Beijing.