Water, Water Everywhere….But None Within Reach

November 14, 2007 // 8:30am10:30am

Chris Groves, Western Kentucky University;
Amelia Chung, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction

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Millions of rural citizens in southwest China suffer from mild to serious health problems and limits to economic development that result from lack of access to water or access to only polluted water due to the region's karst geology. These health problems are yet another burden on many of the tens of millions of subsistence farmers who live below China's poverty threshold of about $85 per year.

The region's more or less contiguous karst area—covering 8 provinces—is among the world's largest and most spectacular: think of the gumdrop mountains in Guilin. Karst is characterized by highly permeable bedrock, most commonly limestone, which over centuries has dissolved to form Swiss cheese-like landscapes in which caves and underground rivers are common and surface water scarce.

Geology-phobic folks have no fear, for besides offering an entertaining crash course in southwest China's karst water problems and some stunning cave shots from Chris Groves, this meeting will highlight the ways in which the USAID and ENVRION Foundation supported China Environmental Health Project (CEHP), which began Fall 2006, is carrying out field activities in karst areas of southern Yunnan to improve local community access to water.

A major effort of the karst CEHP team—a partnership between Western Kentucky University and Southwest University of China (SWUC) in Beibie, Chongqing—is to provide training in critical technological areas—such as cave diving and underground river mapping—to explore and understand karst water problems. This karst team also includes the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, which is carrying out the community outreach component to help increase village and local government involvement in the research and design of solutions increase access to reliable and safe water in their karst areas. This talk will focus on the work taking place in southern Yunnan in the Honghe prefecture, a mainly Hani and Yi minority area.

Location: 5th Floor Conference Room


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