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CitySpeak XII: The Water We Drink - Carlos Lo of Polytechnic University



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Where does the water we drink come from? Is there enough for everyone? Where will it come from?

Hong Kong's water supply comes from two sources: the rainfall we collect in our reservoirs (20-30%) and water we buy from the Mainland (70-80%). The current agreement for water from the Dongjiang, a tributary of the Pearl River, will expire in 2015. With demand for water growing sharply throughout the Pearl River Delta and the supply of water compromised by pollution and climate change, Hong Kong's future access to clean water is far from certain.

In our drive to become a sustainable city, should Hong Kong become self-sufficient? Should we increase the size of our reservoirs? Follow Singapore and recycle our waste water? Build plants to desalinate seawater? What other possible methods are there? Who's going to pay?

CitySpeak invites you to join Hong Kong officials, academics and planners in this discussion about our water issues.

The keynote speaker is Mr. LT Ma, Director of the Water Supplies Department, who will set the scene and outline the current situation in Hong Kong. The discussion will be moderated by Mr. Mike Kilburn, Environmental Programme Manager, Civic Exchange.

Background reading
"Liquid Assets -- Water security and management in the Pearl River Basin and Hong Kong" by Civic Exchange, November 2009 ( For more information about water in China, visit Civic Exchange is a Hong Kong independent non-profit think tank. See:

Designing Hong Kong is a not-for-profit organisation focused on sustainable urban planning. See:

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CitySpeak XII: The Water We Drink - Carlos Lo of Polytechnic University

  1. 1. The Political Economy of Water Resources Conservation in China: Reconciling Bureaucratic Conflicts in Conserving Dongjiang’s Water Resources Carlos Lo Department of Marketing and Management The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong May 2010
  2. 2. River Basin Management: Dongjiang “ Fragmented authoritarianism” model City A City B Provincial Government Conflicts Bargaining Bargaining Consensus
  3. 3. <ul><li>Reform: complicates bargaining relations </li></ul><ul><li>reform  decentralization of authority </li></ul><ul><li> central: coercive means  </li></ul><ul><li> central: ideology  </li></ul><ul><li> local units: resource autonomy  </li></ul><ul><li> local units: bargaining position  </li></ul>River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  4. 4. <ul><li>Water and bargaining </li></ul><ul><li>water decisions: best reveal bargaining process </li></ul><ul><li> scarce resource </li></ul><ul><li> multiple users (one use precludes another) </li></ul><ul><li> transboundary (administrative) </li></ul>River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  5. 5. Drainage area: 35,340 km 2 Mainstem: 562 km Annual average discharge: 32.66 billion m 3 Population served: 30+ million River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  6. 6. Upstream zone Midstream zone Downstream zone Hydrologists ’ perspective: River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  7. 7. Upstream zone 10% drainage area 6% annual discharge Downstream zone 90% drainage area 94% annual discharge Jiangxi ’s perspective: River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  8. 8. Upstream zone Midstream zone Downstream zone Guangdong ’s perspective: River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  9. 9. 215 1,501 3,711 5,901 9,206 10,211 29,900 per capita GDP 2008 US$ River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  10. 10. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  11. 11. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  12. 12. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  13. 13. <ul><li>Upstream zone: </li></ul><ul><li>water resources conservation </li></ul><ul><li> shut down polluting ind. </li></ul><ul><li> refuse polluting investment </li></ul>River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  14. 14. 1973 1961 1984 Upstream zone: - water resources conservation  reservoirs > migrants  conservation forest > forest farmers River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  15. 15. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  16. 16. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  17. 17. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  18. 18. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  19. 19. River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  20. 20. Upstream zone: - unfair distribution of burden  intra-basin disparity - development restricted  underdevelopment - priorities  “ ecological compensation”  supportive policies River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  21. 21. Downstream zone: - resist direct compensation  higher authorities to handle - priorities  clean & sufficient water - bargaining actions  plead w/ higher-ups River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  22. 22. 1.763 2.533 2.095 0.553 1.663 1.100 Guangdong water allocation plan: 10.66 billion m 3 River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  23. 23. Dongjiang River Basin compensation: - targets  reservoir migrants  conservation forest farmers  Heyuan City Government River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  24. 24. Compensation for Xunwu? - none from downstream River Basin Management: Dongjiang
  25. 25. Conclusion - new bargaining strategies  direct, bottom-up  extra-bureaucratic channels - grievances: unresolved  undermine long-term conservation efforts River Basin Management: Dongjiang