Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: environment
Tuesday, 26 September 2006 20:07

China's Water Challenge


CHINA’S WATER CRISIS

Rivers’ pollution, hazardous water management, devastating typhoons in the East, water shortage in the North and the West, erosion of arable land and desertification... China’s looming water crisis challenges its very model of development.
The debate goes even beyond: how far is China’s water problem related to world wide challenges? And what is to be done at the global level in order for China to let water bless again its soil and its people?

This flash animation presentation states the basic facts about China’s water challenges. While it is downloading, have a look at the main points it develops.

The per capita share of fresh water in China, which stands at 2,200 cubic meters, is only one-quarter of the world average. By 2030 when China’s population reaches 1.6 billion, per capita water resources will drop to 1760 cubic meters; close to 1700 cubic meters, the internationally recognized benchmark for water shortages:

- 42% of China’s population, or 538 million people, in the northern provinces (60% of its cultivated land) have access to only 14% of the country’s water. If northern China were counted as a separate country, its water availability—757 cubic meters per person—would be comparable to that of parts of North Africa: lower, for example, than the water resources of Morocco. In central Gansu, some areas get less than 300 millimeters of rain a year. (In order to address China’s northern water shortage, the government is spending almost 500 billion yuan on a three canals project to divert some 38-48 billion cubic meters of flow northward from the Yangzi River to the Yellow, Huaihe, and Haihe River systems)

- More than half of China’s 660 cities suffer from water shortages, affecting 160 million people. By 2010, it is expected that, of the 600 larger cities in the country, 550 will be subjected to water shortages.

- 90% of cities’ groundwater and 75% of rivers and lakes are polluted. Every year, about 25 billion tons of sewage and pollutants, 42 percent of all generated in China, is piped into the Yangtze River, making it one of the ten most endangered rivers in the world to face drying up, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund.

- China also lags behind in sanitation coverage, which was 48% in 2004 , the same as Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, but less than China’s neighbor, Vietnam, whose GDP per capita is only about half of China’s. In 2006, the percentage of treated urban sewage and safely handled urban household waste reached 56% and 54% respectively, 4 and 2.3 percentage points higher than the year before.

- The water problem is in no way limited to urban areas. According to the WHO, acid rain, polluted rivers and inadequate sewage treatment have left nearly half of China’s rural population without access to clean drinking water. (See also I-C)
- As a result of widespread water pollution, around 340 million people drink contaminated water every day, with an additional 350 million drinking poor quality water. Over 26 million people in China suffer from dental fluorosis due to elevated fluoride in their drinking water, and over 1 million cases of skeletal fluorosis are thought to be attributable to drinking-water.

- Between November 2005 and January 2006, three major accidents occurred, stopping water supply for millions of people and raising awareness of the challenges ahead.

- In 2006, it was estimated that nearly 80 per cent of China’s 7,555 more heavily polluting factories were located in rivers or lakes or in heavily populated areas.

- If presents trends are not reversed, experts forecast that by 2020 there will be 30 million environmental refugees in China due to water stress.

- “The struggle for water will lead to "a fight between rural interests, urban interests and industrial interests on who gets water in China.” (Yukon Huang, World Bank, January 2005)
 

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