Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Odds against public heating in South

By Wang Yiqing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-24 08:28

For people in North and South China, mid-November generates different feelings. Northerners heave a sigh of relief as they welcome central heating that will guarantee cozy indoors for four months even if the temperature outside dips well below freezing point, while southerners brace themselves for the long and unbearable winter ahead.

The decision to provide public heating in North China was taken in the 1950s when the "North-South Central Heating Supply Line" was drawn. Given the traditional, geographical and meteorological characteristics, as well as financial and energy shortage at the time, the central government divided China into northern and southern parts along Qinling Mountain and the Huaihe River, and decided to provide public heating in the North because it has a much colder and longer winter than the South.

For decades, people in the southern region, even those who live close to Qinling Mountain and the Huaihe River and thus have to endure as severe a winter as in the North, have had to find ways to keep themselves warm in winter. But over the past years, climate change and the country's rapid economic growth and personal wealth accumulation have prompted southern residents to demand public heating.

About 80 percent of the respondents to a People's Daily survey last year supported the idea of public heating in the South. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, too, has said heating systems are necessary in 14 provinces and municipalities in the "hot-summer, cold-winter" region (where the temperature dips below 5 C on 60-89 days and below 8 C on at least 75 days a year).

At the annual sessions of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2012, CPPCC member Zhang Xiaomei submitted a proposal saying public heating should be provided in some southern areas, which was opposed by many experts. The general agreement among experts is that setting up a North-style central heating system in the South is not only impractical - since it's difficult to build heating system infrastructure - but also a huge waste of energy, labor and, most importantly, people's money which they will pay as heating charges because winters are very short there.

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