From Chinese Press

Sewer is a city's conscience

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-28 07:50
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Of late, netizens have posted many stories of waterlogged cities. These "bright and shining" modern cities have transformed into "water towns" after the recent torrential rain, exposing the poor condition their drainage systems and management, says an article in Beijing News. Excerpts:

As Victor Hugo said about 150 years ago, "the sewer is the conscience of the city". Torrential rain has lashed central and southern China and brought to the fore many hidden problems in cities, the sorry state of cities' drainage systems being one of them.

But instead of improving their sewer systems, city authorities across the country are more interested in "modernizing" cities' landscapes. Media reports suggest more than 200 skyscrapers are under construction across the country - the number is more than the existing ones in the whole of United States.

Local governments showcase skyscrapers to prove their political achievements. Even city authorities that have failed to improve their drainage systems have commissioned skyscrapers. Such city authorities should realize that people in general are more interested in an efficient drainage system than skyscrapers.

In their blind pursuit of higher GDP, many local governments have ignored the basic sectors that make city life better. Many of the cities wouldn't have been submerged had the authorities paid attention to the basic needs of the residents like efficient drainage systems.

The way the authorities deal with basic urban problems determines the quality of life in cities. Cities such as London and Paris have very efficient sewer systems.

Perhaps city authorities in China should study and improve on the Chinese drainage system devised more than 1,000 years ago. But then Chinese architects and officials a millennium ago did not have to showcase their achievements to win brownie points.

The quality of urban residents' life depends on the effectiveness of the sewer system of the city they live in, not the number of skyscrapers that dot their landscape. Local governments should thus give top priority to residents' needs.

(China Daily 06/28/2011 page9)