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Local gov't accused of wasting public money
Sun XiaohuaChina Daily  Updated: 2004-11-20 14:22

The stretch of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal in Beijing's Tongzhou District has been built and rebuilt time and again over the years.

It is reported that the new district government, which has just taken office, has worked out a second-stage plan for "improving" this section of the canal. Facilities established in the first-stage project by the previous government were only used for one year and then demolished.

The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, built in the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618), once served as a transport hub and carried abundant cultural meaning. As modern transport developed, it gradually lost its leading role in shifting cargo and became a scenic spot.

In 1998, the district government decided to freshen up the waterway, turning it into a leisure and entertainment resort for local residents.

The government has in total paid 200 million yuan (US$24 million) on building a dock, a cultural square, a sports park and an ecological park. When the project was finished in September 2003, water in that part of the canal was clean. Parks at the sides of the river attracted many local residents.

But that is not the end of the story. Just one month later, the new district government has decided to launch a second revival for the canal. Plans have been drawn to widen the river from 90 metres to 200 metres. The parks will have to be removed.

So far, sports facilities have been pulled down and more than 2,000 trees in the ecological park have been felled. The direct loss is estimated at 20-30 million yuan (US$2.4-3.6 million).

The district government has not given convincing justification for widening the canal.

One cannot help wondering why the new project has been conceived.

Doubts have been raised about the policy-making system of the district government.

As an organ serving the public, the government is supposed to put public interest first. But the district government does not seem to live up to these obligations with this second-term project.

Residents were not consulted about this plan. In fact, they were reportedly satisfied with what had already been done and were enjoying the facilities laid on.

Park demolition has deprived their compounds of leisure and entertainment. Building work has inconvenienced their daily lives.

The worst aspect is the waste of taxpayers' money.

It is understandable that a new government should want to be seen as making some sort of progress.

But if this progress is made at the expense of their predecessors' well-meant and effective work, it should be stopped.

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