Nearly one million people were relocated to China’s northern Hebei province after record rains forced authorities to send water from overflowing rivers to some populated areas for storage, which Beijing has sacrificed to protect homes. Anger erupted online.
The vast Hai River basin covers an area the size of Poland which includes Hebei, Beijing, and Tianjin. Over one week from late July, the region with a total population of 110 million experienced its most severe flooding in six decades, with Hebei, particularly Baoding Prefecture, worst affected.
According to flood control laws, when a reservoir, the first line of defence, exceeds its limits due to basin-wide flooding, the water can be temporarily diverted to so-called “flood storage areas” – which include low-lying populated areas. Land is also included. On 31 July, Hebei province opened seven of its 13 designated flood storage areas, including the city of Zhuozhou in Baoding, south of Beijing, and two in the north of Xiong’an, an area President Xi Jinping’s target is Hebei, Beijing and To develop into an economic powerhouse serving the Tianjin.
According to local state media, on August 1, Nie Yufeng, secretary of Hebei’s Communist Party, named Xiong’an a top priority for the province’s flood prevention work. On his visit to flood storage areas in Baoding, Ni said it was necessary to ease the pressure on Beijing’s flood control and create a “moat” for the Chinese capital. “Beijing should foot the bill,” wrote a netizen on the popular Chinese microblog Weibo.
In other posts on Zuozhou, netizens said that residents did not know they lived in a flood storage area and that the rights of minorities had been sacrificed. “I want to know, of all the people who live in flood storage areas across the country, how many people are aware that they are living in such areas?” an angry netizen asked.
Phone calls to the Hebei provincial government seeking comment on Sunday went unanswered. It did not immediately respond to an email. Record-breaking rains in Baoding have caused 67 of its 83 small reservoirs to overflow and all 10 of its large reservoirs have risen to dangerous levels, the Baoding government said on Saturday. The official China Water Resources News said in a post on Weibo on August 1, “When the flood is too large and exceeds the protecting capacity of the embankment, using flood storage areas becomes an indispensable requirement for flood control.” Is.”
“It’s also to protect the overall situation. You have to sacrifice a part for the greater whole.” State media reported on Saturday that as of 8:00 a.m. (0000 GMT) Friday, Hebei had moved more than 1.54 million people, 961,200 of them from flood storage areas.
A department of the Ministry of Water Resources said residents of flood storage areas “have left their homes for the safety of all”, and will be compensated according to law. On Saturday, Bazhou city officials in another part of Hebei expressed “heartfelt thanks” to residents for following the orders and evacuating their homes ahead of schedule.
He said the compensation for damaged agricultural production and housing will be reviewed once the flood recedes. But not all citizens seemed convinced. A video reposted on Saturday by the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, shows citizens unfurling a banner outside the entrance of the Bazhou municipal office that reads, “My Taking home is the clear purpose of the discharge of flood water, but you said it is all because of the rain. A netizen expressed grief on Weibo, saying, “A small part of society is still large, and their sacrifice is too deep.”