Residents and businesses in an upmarket area of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD), including the prestigious Central Park compound, have been left without hot water for five days, with the problem unlikely to be fixed before the weekend. The issue has been blamed on a burst water pipe, but residents have complained of poor communication from their landlords and an inadequate response from water suppliers.
“Nobody told me anything,” said David P., a US national working in finance who asked us not to use his real name. “I first noticed around 8 or 9pm on Friday (Oct 12), when I tried to take a shower. I called down to the guard, who said it was a problem with the whole area. The next day I saw a notice in the public lobby.”
We contacted Beijing District Heating Group, who said that they expect supplies to be restored this weekend. For David P., this isn’t good enough.
“I feel like we’re supposed to be in a major international metropolis, and with this kind of problem, they should be able to fix it a lot faster than this. It’s kind of ridiculous.”
He also called for better communication with residents.
“That way we can plan, should I go out of town, or book a hotel.”
For those, particularly families with children, who have chosen to book into local hotels until supplies are restored, there may be considerable costs involved, with claims that hotels in the area have ramped up their prices to take advantage.
“I often have guests in Beijing,” David P. told us, “so I know what the prices are usually. After this problem, they went up 50 to 100 percent.”
Other Beijingers were unsympathetic, with those living in older compounds stating that this is a frequent problem this time of year. Hot water is often switched off for a week or two in preparation for the change over to winter heating. If this is the case in CBD, it would explain why it’s taking so long to repair a burst pipe. However, it would raise the question of why residents weren’t simply told in advance about the planned works.
For many residents, this has come as a reminder that China, for all its wealth, is still a developing country. Some are treating it as a minor inconvenience, for others, it’s a failure to provide a basic utility despite the notoriously high rents in CBD, which have shot up by 40 percent in the last year alone.
If you’re affected by this problem, in CBD or elsewhere, we can suggest a solution: water heaters can be purchased for as little as RMB 600 from taobao.com or jd.com. If your Mandarin is still developing too, just copy and paste the characters 热水器 (rè shuǐ qì, “water heater”) into the search box, and look in the listings for the phrase 包安装 (bāo ān zhuāng, “installation included”). If you’re renting, it might also be worth talking to your landlord about whether they will pay for or share the cost of the boiler, which is, after all, an enhancement to their property.
Photos: Pixabay, Amanda Zhang