Two workers at a golf course in Yulin, Shaanxi province, on Aug 9. The greens and fairways are in stark contrast to the parched desert that surrounding the course. [Photo / Xinhua]
XI’AN – Two illegal golf courses in the desert near Yulin, Northwest China’s Shaanxi province, are putting a severe strain on the water supplies that the local farmers and farmland rely on.
It is estimated that the two golf courses, one of which is already in use and one that will open soon, will use at least 5 million tons of water a year in an area that suffers from serious water shortages.
Yulin is located next to the desert on the Loess Plateau in northern Shaanxi, which has an average annual precipitation of only 400 millimeters.
In order to maintain the grass, the company behind the golf courses has dug deep wells so it can use ground water.
The golf courses were built by Shaanxi Hengtai Waiye Investment Company and the Yulin Desert Ecological Park Management Center, which provided 267 hectares of land to the company for free.
According to Ji Shenghua, deputy director of Yulin Desert Ecological Park Management Center, the golf course project is actually a sports park the will enrich the lives of local residents and improve the ecological environment in the desert.
However, it is reported that a round of golf at the course costs 1,800 yuan ($280) a time, a price that few local residents can afford.
According to Xue Jinshang, the official with Yulin forestry bureau in charge of the project, the local government ordered the company to stop the golf course project and will totally eliminate the golf courses if the company cannot get government approval.
Meanwhile, the golf courses are putting an additional strain on the limited water supplies of farmers.
Farmers in a village 3 kilometers from the golf courses said the level of underground water has already dropped sharply during the past four years and said the golf courses will accelerate the drop.
Huang Qi, general manager of the golf courses, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying, that the courses need to be watered three times a day, once in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Each watering session consumes about 5000 tons of water every day.
As early as in 2004, the State Council issued a notice to suspend construction of new golf courses, but since then, more than 400 new golf courses had been completed across the county by the end of 2010.