04 January 2010

The Stream Diggers

They're digging up the Wang Tong Stream. Well, that's a good thing. During typhoons and heavy rains a lot of coarse sand washes down from the granite hills, down through the village, and replenishes the beach a few hundred meters downstream.

Trouble is, ever since the government's ill-conceived "training" and concreting of the middle section of the stream for "flood control", storm water shoots through the channel like wild horses, without any natural streambed, plants or twists and turns to slow its course and catch some of the sand and then release it downstream gradually during more relaxed, normal river flow.

Just where the concrete ends there's a ninety-degree turn in the river. I don't understand the physics of liquid motion dynamics, but as the raging waters smash into the turn with a wallop, so apparently does much of the sand and, rather than turn the corner with the water, it simply accumulates. After a while, a miniature delta begins to form, narrow arteries of water cutting through sand islands. Garbage and various forms of ick and goo which are illegally discharged upstream get stuck there, and the sand islands crust over with algae. Yuck.

Cue the Drainage Services Department to come in every couple of years to dig it out. Look how much they piled up in just one thirty-meter stretch. Later they'll load it a bit at a time into that motorized cart on the left and haul it out to the beach.

The workers were naturally suspicious when they saw me walking around them taking photos. A gwailo -- foreign devil -- with a camera usually means one thing: an official complaint about something. Gwailos are always complaining, interfering with hard-working Chinese just trying to earn an income for their families, or to blow at the horse races, or maybe even both. I smiled and assured them that I merely found it "interesting" to watch them work. I'm sure they didn't believe me, but they smiled back nevertheless.

I understood their worry. Nine out of ten times when government workers creep into our village, it's usually for sinister purposes: installing unnecessary guard rails, erecting yet more nanny-like warning signs, concreting even more lush green hillsides "just in case" of mud slides, or building their odd little "temporary storage depots" for equipment, that they always seem to forget to take down. There is plenty to complain about.

As I left them, even I felt a sense of relief that this was a rare case of government doing something necessary, cleaning up after themselves, leaving behind no trace, and no complaints. It's as unusual as a blue sky in the smoggy Pearl River Delta. Strange, the skies were blue for much of the day as well.

A government project that makes sense and a blue sky. What an uncommon day it has been.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to know that the government can get something right sometimes ...even though they caused the problem in the first place!

    Happy New Year! It's -5ish and we've got 5-6 inches of snow here. I've had a snow day and it looks like I'll get another one tomorrow -Yeah!!!