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China: Sobbing without tears

On 15th December, a post named “the investigation of drought in Northwestern, Lanzhou region” appeared in Skyline (Tianya.cn, 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:

这里年平均降雨量只有300毫米左右,而蒸发量却高达1500-2000毫米以上。严重缺水,导致当地农民生活贫困,教育落后,妇女儿童的生存健康状况亟待改善。笔者了解到,即使有的村落仅有的一点水源,也是高氟水,水的含氟量达到7.8毫克/升,而国家规定安全饮用水的最高界限是1.0毫克/升。因长期饮用高氟水,村民普遍的特点是大骨节病和黄斑牙。一般男子到50多岁就丧失劳动能力,妇女有的二十五六岁生育完就弯腰驼背、脊椎变形,丧失劳动能力,甚至生活不能自理。

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:

实践证明,修建一口容量36立方米的水窖,一年可蓄集雨水50—80立方米左右,能保证一个3—5口人的家庭一年的人、畜饮水;拥有2口水窖,就能发展一亩庭院经济作物,因而可以陆续解决一系列的生存发展问题。有关专家评价,在严重缺水地区修建集雨水窖,是有效利用雨水资源以解决缺水之忧的最简便、最经济、最实用的办法。投入1000-1500元,就可以建一眼集雨水窖,等于一家人就有了生存和发展的希望。

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.

但是,因为贫困,许多家庭却无力修建一眼像样的水窖。在这里,还有成千上万的农民兄弟在与严重缺水苦苦搏斗,他们想水、盼水、哭水、梦水,向五湖四海呼唤着―――水。

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:

以前听说有些人一生只洗三次澡,一直想像不了为什么才洗3次。看了这组图片,终于明白原来一滴水对缺水的地区来说是那么的可贵。
LZ,我们可以帮上什么忙么?

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:

上学那会,去过一次西北,比这更穷困缺水的家庭比比皆是,用“心痛”两个字根本无法表达你眼睛里看到的景象!
那个时候去,我们都是自己带的水壶,因为好像矿泉水还不“流行”,领队早早就提醒我们要节约着喝,到地方没水喝要自己忍着,不要跟人家要,结果很多同学最后还是没能忍住。。。。。
终生难忘的一段记忆!

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:

看到这样的景象,除了眼含泪水,我们还能做什么?

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

A reply writed:

政府已经开始做了,只是投入太少了,对于整个缺水地区来说只是杯水车薪。解决问题只能靠全社会多渠道的力量。

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.对有些生态环境恶劣确实不适合人类生存的地方,移民也一直在搞,如甘肃的往河西走廊\秦王川的移民,但是进展缓慢,受故土难离的观念\资金等诸多因素影响,难度不小.
10.现在中央和当地政府对改善生态环境也抓的很紧,很多地方几年前开始退耕还林,种草种树,给农民一定的粮食和现金补贴,组织剩余劳动力外出打工,大力发展适合当地环境种植的马铃薯等农作物.

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:

恻隐之心,人皆有之,积善行德、扶危济困是中华民族的美德。在此,笔者跪求天涯各位德人帮顶此帖,让更多的人了解和帮助那里正在经历苦难的农民兄弟。再次的感谢!!!

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!

2 comments

  • 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

    我们的有为政府可以花几十个亿去修豪华的政府大楼~!花几千个亿去办个奥运会~!缺没有闲钱解决人民生计的基本问题~!
    万恶的GZD啊~!

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