Beijing's capacity for future growth will be severely strained by existing shortages of water, land and civic services, which have been caused by a sharply increasing population over the last two decades, according to a study co-released Tuesday by the Social Sciences Academic Press and the Capital University of Economics and Business (CUEB).
The 2013 Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Development Report: the Capacity Measurement and Solutions, said that Beijing's current population has already overstepped its capacity for sustainable development by 38 percent.
"Beijing is facing huge pressures created by its growing population," Zhu Erjuan, director of the Capital Research Institute of Economics at CUEB and chief editor of the report, told the Global Times. "The mass of people and their economic activities are rapidly draining natural resources and overstraining the city's infrastructure."
Beijing continues to attract huge numbers of people who are attracted by work and study opportunities, the study said.
According to the study, the population of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province reached 104 million in 2010 and will hit 120 million in 2020. The region's current infrastructure growth will meet the needs of only 98 million people by 2015.
"The population growth is already challenging the capacity to provide transportation, water, medical and education resources. Severe environmental damage is already apparent in the mega cities," the report said.
Beijing's most pressing problem is water. The capital's water supply can only sustain 60 percent of its current residents, the report said, adding that the city's current per capita water resources in 2011 was 119 cubic meters, far short of the internationally recommended level of 1,000 cubic meters.
Zhang Xuying, a researcher at China Population and Development Research Center, told the Global Times that the construction of the massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project, which will bring water from Southern China, will help alleviate Beijing's water shortage.
"Limited local natural resources shouldn't be a reason for the government to harshly limit the population growth," Zhang said.
Lu Jiehua, professor of social demography at Peking University, told the Global Times that the government should try to redirect Beijing's population by evening out the huge economic gap between the capital and its surrounding cities.
"People come to Beijing because there are jobs, industries and infrastructure that other areas don't have," Lu told the Global Times.
"To get people to voluntarily leave Beijing, the government needs to provide opportunities for work in other regions," Lu added.
While Lu wants to see more second-and third-tiers cities such as Shijiazhuang in Hebei be given a developmental push, the report's author Zhu believes Beijing's suburbs such as Tongzhou district and Daxing district still have growth potential.
"Now is the time to develop strategies for growth in Beijing's outskirts. The government needs to learn from developed countries and plan for potential problems before they happen," Zhu said.