China: Sobbing without tears

On 15th December, a post named “the investigation of drought in Northwestern, Lanzhou region” appeared in Skyline (, 天涯). The writer Manbaqi(满八旗) recorded his five-day research in Lanzhou district, Gansu province, part of the Yellow River drainage area. Over 40 pictures and his sincere appeal for people’s concern put the post under focus.

The Yellow River area, especially the “central plain”(中原) has long been honored as the cradle of Chinese. However, Gansu province, which used to be a grassy, lush land, also a part of midland, has been gradually drained over history due to the climatic change and overgraze. Today, the land ,especially the mountainous region is tightly associated with drought.

The writer told:


The average rainfall here is only 300mm/year. But the evaporation is over 1500 to 2000mm. The lack of water brings farmers poor life and underdeveloped education. The living condition of women and children urgently requires an improvement. I got to know that the only water source in some villages contain all but High-Fluoride water (over 7.8mg /L). But the limit should be 1 mg/L. Long drinking High-Fluoride water, the villagers there typically have Kashin-Beck disease and mottled enamel. Men might lose working ability at age of 50 and women might hunch and have distorted backbone soon after procreation, with their working ability lost. Some people even felt hard to take care of themselves.

Though they are not out of methods on fighting the drought, the villagers often can’t really build the wells needed due to the lack of fund. The writer made a calculation:


A water well of 36-CBM capacity can store 50 to 80 CBM water each year and therefore guarantees the supply to a family of 3 to 5 people and all its herds. With 2 wells like this, 1 acre of crops cultivated in the yard can be developed, so that a series of problems can be solved. Experts estimate in areas thirsty for water, building rainwater wells helps a lot. It’s the quickest, most convenient and practical way. With a investment of 1000 to 1500 RMB, a well can be built and a hope can be earned.

But the promising future is again prostrated to the cold reality.


But because of poverty, many families had no fund to build a well. Here, thousands of farmer brothers are wrestling with the serious lack of water. they think of, expect, cry for, and dream of one thing—— water (水)!

I personally googled the situation in Gnasu. A news in 2001 told that a campaign “121 rainwater collection project” had been launched, and with the help of government, 1.31 million people were benefited from the project. Actions have been taken, but based on this post, more are to be done.

The following pictures show us a world yelling for water, though they might actually be too thirsty to squeeze out a single word. They are shot by the writer during the trip.

The dried landsscpe

The village

An old man scooping water

Carrying water from far away

A corner of the village

An old woman

A girl from Taiwan cried for the scene

A wrinkled, dried hand

An old woman sick in the bed

Door of grade one classroom in school

People get water from pools like this

They smiled when hearing more wells could be built with the donation

Soil, but no water

The children, also the future

The home

The school

This is water

On the net forum, netizen “I am not ugly but I am not tender” replied:


I have heard that someone has merely taken 3 baths during his lifetime. I didn’t figure out before why he did so. Watching this picture, I know how valuable one drop of water could be to a place thirsty for water.
Can we help?

“Potato” said:


When I was in school I used to be somewhere in northwestern region and the families thirstier for water are even more prevalent. The term “heartache” is far from being enough to depict what you have seen. We took our water jugs there. The leader reminded us of water thrift; never ask the villagers for water even though you are thirsty. But many friends could not hold on.
I won't forget that for my lifetime.

“Think and Do” said:


What else could we do other than bearing tears in our eyes?

A reply writed:


The government has started its work. But the fund is still limited. The effort, up till now, remains inadequate compared to the whole serious situation. We need various power from the whole society to solve the problem.

Some rebuked:

这个是推卸责任!人们之所以结成社会,建立国家就是为了解决这种问题!我们之所以交税也是为了解决这种问题!这个 国家的公务员一年可以吃掉喝掉上千亿,却没有1000-1500块钱给这些人修一口水窖,扪心自问,我们的政府到底有没有在做?为什么投入那么少?钱到哪 里去了?

This is shirking the responsibility. People formed society and built nations to solve this kind of problems. We pay tax for the same goal. Public servants in this country can eat and drink up hundreds of billions, but have no 1000 to 1500 RMB to build a well for the people. Ask yourself, is our government really taking measures? Why so little fund? Where is the money?

But a netizen named “Ben-bu-gai-la-Deng (本不该拉灯)” from northwestern region tried to speak more constructively:

1. 在甘肃\宁夏\青海等省区的很多地方,缺水是常态,农民基本是靠天吃饭的,一年的收成如何,取决于降雨量的多寡.
2. 甘肃在很多年前已经在搞”121雨水集流工程”,对此楼主已经有所解释,我再说详细一点:就是在屋顶\庭院用水泥铺出集流面,有一定的倾斜角度,可让雨水流入水窖,水窖如果用水泥衬砌,则集流的雨水可以保存较长时间,供日常生活\生产用.

1. In provinces such as Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, many places find drought a common situation. Farmers rely on the weather since the crop depend on the rainfall.
2. Gansu had been working on “121 rainwater collection project” for many years. Let me explain further what it is about: on the roof people can build a slanted platform so that rain water could be channeled to a water-well. If the well is made of cement, the rain water can be preserved longer for daily use or production.

He also replied to the question why people don’t emigrate out of the region.


9. Actually in some bleak, arid regions unfitted for living, emigration has long been on the schedule. But it goes slowly due to farmers’ ideas that inherited lands are valuable as well as the limit of fund. It’s a hard work.
10. The government is working hard on improving the environment. Many fields have been returned to forests. Farmers might get a certain amount of allowance in crop or in cash. Also, the government has organized the excessive labor to work outside their hometowns and developed the local crops like potatoes.

Indeed, in today’s China, we have heard so much news on poor, underdeveloped villages. The long grilled nerve is under the danger of being numb. But on the day when we no more trust on others’ appeal for help and no longer commiserate on hearing injustice, we might lose our hope.

Here is what the writer of the original post stated in the ending:


We all have a heart of compassion. Working for goodness and helping the weak is always the virtue of Chinese. Here, I urgently appeal you to help pump the post, to let more people know the farmer brothers suffering there. Thank you again!


  • thetis

    I’m from Sichuan, since I read the above, I find there are more places poorer than us. With the development of China, whole nation should pay much more attention on disparity between poverty and richness. Also all of us should donate some for them as more as we can. I am in doing a net for donation and selling on xici, when it’s ok, I will try more on it.

  • Ray


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