Planet China

In hot water

In hot water

We’ve all forgotten to turn the taps off once or twice. But in Jilin City in China’s northeast, one man did so quite deliberately – and for the entire winter. Hsu Wen is the sole remaining occupant of a building that real estate developers would like to demolish. His fear was that sub-zero temperatures would lead to the water pipes freezing, which would have been a boon to the developers who hope he’ll quit living there (Hsu says he stayed on because they’ve offered him too little cash for his apartment). So he devised a novel solution. He left the hot water taps on for 24 hours a day throughout the winter months and channelled the flow out of his window to heat the uninsulated water pipes running down the side of the building. Given the icy weather, the scheme had spectacular results: a frozen waterfall descending from his top-floor flat down to street level (see photo). All in all, Hsu says, the plan has been a success: “The weather is warmer now so there is no danger of the pipes freezing – although I think it might take a while for the waterfall to melt.”

The incident has gained widespread media attention and led local government officials to pressure the developers to come to terms with Hsu. “I understand the developers may be prepared to make me a better offer now – I hope so. It is very lonely here in my apartment with nobody else around,” Hsu confided.

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