Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Billions of dollars needed to fix China’s water woes [Straits Times/AFP]


Still shiny and minted in the public eye as the world’s second-largest economy, China’s water crisis has been foretold as early as 2002. In their own official mouthpiece, a Xinhua report revealed – (China warned of Water Crisis by 2030, China.org, 2002), ‘Chinese experts warn that by 2030 when China’s population reaches 1.6 billion, per capita water resources will drop to 1,760 cubic meters — perilously close to 1,700 cu m, the internationally recognized benchmark for water shortages.’ Add that to this growing issue of polluted water supplies, and it looks like a big problem. 800 million people without clean water is more than half the population – let us hope the big investment into the clean up goes well without the spectre of corruption ruining it. As with most things about contemporary China, if the top brass set their minds to it the problem will be solved quickly, expediently and increasingly so, creatively.

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Billions of dollars needed to fix China’s water woes
Source – Straits Times, published February 17, 2011

SHANGHAI: China is now the world’s second-largest economy, but hundreds of millions of its people still rely on fouled water that will cost billions of dollars to clean.

Growing cities, overuse of fertilisers and factories that heedlessly dump wastewater have degraded China’s water supplies to the extent that half the nation’s rivers and lakes are severely polluted.

The water pollution has also contaminated rice crops in the country, with up to 10 per cent of rice grown in China contaminated with harmful heavy metals.

Of the major grains, rice has the strongest tendency to absorb cadmium, which often seeps into water used for irrigation near mines, especially lead, tin and copper mines, the New Century magazine said. ‘These harmful heavy metals have spread through the air and water, polluting a rather large area of China’s land… a complete chain of food contamination has existed for years,’ said its latest edition.

Rice, which is largely grown in south China, is the nation’s staple grain with about 200 million tonnes produced annually, the report said.

The World Bank estimates that China needs to spend up to US$20 billion (S$25.6 billion) a year to bring its urban water supplies up to standard.

Larger and wealthier cities have already started investing in the sector, but water supplies in smaller cities and the countryside still fall short, leaving about 800 million people without clean drinking water.

Water infrastructure was given unusual pride of place this year in the government’s first policy document of 2011, with 4 trillion yuan (S$778 billion) allocated to water cleanup and rural water infrastructure over the next decade.

‘China is facing a grave challenge of water pollution,’ said Mr Ma Jun, whose Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs names and shames water polluters. ‘If you travel along the coastal regions, which are the most populated areas in China, you can hardly find much clean water… In the northern part of China, you will find many rivers have either dried up or have turned into open sewers.’

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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Filed under: Domestic Growth, Economics, Environment, Green China, Health, Human Rights, People, Population, Resources, Straits Times, Water

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