No water for our greens

Updated: 2011-08-12 08:05

(China Daily)

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The development of golf courses is a clear example of how some local governments are willing to pursue immediate interest at the cost of sustainability.

Golf courses use fine grass, which will die if watered with recycled or polluted water. So, an increasing number of golf courses are draining our most precious resource underground water.

Given the fact that 400 of the more than 600 cities in China are suffering from water shortages, the rapid depleting of underground water to keep the hundreds of golf courses green will likely prove to have severe consequences for many cities in the near future.

Beijing is a case in point. To ensure they stay green all year round, the 60 golf courses use nearly 40 million tons of underground water a year. This is equal to the amount of water consumed by more than 1 million residents a year.

Beijing's per capita water resources are 100 cubic meters, only a tenth of the international standard of 1,000 cubic meters per capita. A shortage of water has long been a bottleneck for the economic and social development of the city.

Yet, even with the known deficiency of this precious resource and the State Council's ban on the construction of such sports facilities, the number of golf courses in the capital has increased from 20 in 2004 to 60 today.

And Beijing is not alone in this predicament. In North China's Hebei province, hundreds of golf courses are grabbing underground water that the local villagers rely on for their crops. In some places, it is necessary to drill down more than 100 meters to find underground water.

In one of the most extreme cases, some villagers in the city of Dalian do not have drinking water on tap because is used to water a nearby golf course.

In addition, golf courses are also polluters as pesticide is used to keep grass healthy.

It could take thousands of years to replenish our underground water, according to experts.

So to be blunt, constructing so many golf courses and keeping them green, by depleting our most precious resource water, is eviscerating the country's future development potential and robbing succeeding generations of any possibility of making a living from the land.

Over-exploitation of groundwater has long been a scourge that threatens both the development of industry and people's lives.

Maybe, there are other ways for us to obtain the water we need. Some suggest the desalination of seawater. But the recent oil spills in Bohai Bay and flow of sewage and pollutants into the oceans mean this would be a costly process.

It is high time that the central government took resolute action to reduce the number of golf courses and punish those who give the green light to their construction and their use of groundwater.

China Daily

(China Daily 08/12/2011 page8)