Opinion / Editorials

Heating for the south

(China Daily) Updated: 2013-01-21 07:58

Whether households in China's southern regions are provided with heat in winter should not be an issue. How they are should be.

The recent establishment of a research group by the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, on winter heating in the south is the government's positive response to the recently intensified debate over whether residents in southern regions should enjoy a cozy temperature indoors during the cold season.

According to data from the China Meteorological Administration in January, the average temperature nationwide has plunged to -3.8 degrees C since November, the lowest in 28 years. Many regions in the south have experienced their lowest temperatures for decades.

The cold weather has sparked heightened calls for the government to supply heat to southerners as it does to northerners. China takes the Qingling Mountain Range and Huaihe River as the official geographic line to divide the south and north of the country, and only buildings and residential housing in the north are provided with government-subsidized central heating in winter.

However, the fact that some regions to the south of the demarcation line have been hit by freezing weather in recent years, such as the snowstorms that struck a vast swathe of China's southern provinces in the spring of 2008 and the icy winter this year, highlights the need for the government to review its heating-supply policy, which was adopted in the context of the country's serious energy shortage in the 1950s.

It is unreasonable and also unfair to continue excluding southern residents from the country's heating network. The higher humidity in the south sometimes makes people feel colder there and more uncomfortable than in the north.

Some claim that extending the country's heating network to the south will consume too much energy. But this should not be an excuse to deny people in the south such services. The country's bid to build a well-off society allows no negligence in improving people's living conditions.

Extending the heating supply to the south will increase carbon emissions and heighten air pollution, but such side effects can be minimized through the use of new energy and improving efficiency. In its plan to supply public heating to southerners, the government should prefer unit-based and self-regulated heating rather than the central heating model that prevails in the north, which wastes a great deal of energy.

(China Daily 01/21/2013 page8)

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