China: Drinking the Northwest Wind

Like so many of Mao’s pronouncements, it sounded simple. “The South has a lot of water; the North lacks water. So if it can be done, borrowing a little water and bringing it up might do the trick.” And thus, in 1952, the spark was lit for what would blaze to life four decades later as China’s most ambitious engineering project—a scheme to bring some 45 billion cubic meters of water, mostly from the mighty Yangtze and its tributaries, up to the north China plain to Beijing and the parched farmland and factory towns around it. The central route of the project began carrying water from Hubei to Beijing in late 2014, and, like so many of Mao’s plans, it has left a swath of human devastation in its wake. (Text by Susan Jakes, Multimedia by Sharron Lovell, Tom Wang)

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Sharron Lovell is a multimedia storyteller and educator. She is currently based between Rome and Beijing and possesses a misguided love of China’s lower tier cities. She lectures on multimedia journalism for a Beijing-based, U.K.-accreditedMaster’s program and is co-hosts a podcast on multimedia journalism.

Lovell’s work has been published in National Geographic books, PBS, Aeon, Foreign PolicyNewsweekThe Guardian, Buzzfeed, PolitikenThe Wall Street JournalThe EconomistThe Irish TimesForbesThe IndependentGraziaMs.AdbustersLe Monde, and The Financial Times.

Tom Wang hails from central China, where he studied multimedia journalism. He has always been a music and film lover and while studying in University discovered documentary film. His interests include urbanization, rural development, water resources, and other environmental issues. Wang currently lives in Beijing, where he works on documentary projects.