Reports from both the Chinese Government and scientific organizations show that China’s level of water pollution is getting worse and the entire northern part of the country may soon be left without access to safe drinking water.
Water pollution has become a real crisis in China, where climate change and a surging urbanization have been creating a huge demand for water; however, data from various government sources claim that up to 40 % of Chinese rivers were seriouslypolluted in 2011, a phenomenon caused by the diffusion of various chemical plants(to supply the blitzing industrialization) along the Yangtze river, which contaminated the water course with huge amounts of toxic substances, like cadmium and chromium. Water pollution is so widespread nowadays that more than 4 million hectares of land are periodically irrigated with contaminated water, with obvious reflections on product quality and crop yields. The most shocking report comes from the Ministry of Environmental protection: 25 % of China’s major rivers are so polluted that their water can no longer be used neither for agricultural nor for industrial purposes.
This scenario may sound actually paradoxical, since China is one of the most water-rich countries in the world; however, the distribution is extremely uneven, since the quasi-totality are located in the southern half of the country, leaving the northern regions without an adequate access to safe drinking water. Moreover, China controls the headwaters of several historic and important rivers in Asia, like Brahmaputra and Mekong: damming or trying to control the connected waterways will inevitably create tension between other bordering states and, as such, can’t be considered as an ideal solution.
The Chinese government is not sitting idle and has launched two major operations to tackle the crisis. The first and most ambitious one is the construction of the “South-North Water Transfer Project”, an enterprise that, with its 80 billion dollar budget, will be even more expensive than the Three Gorges Dawn, the world’s biggesthydroelectric project. The objective is to move 45 billion cubic meters of water from the southern half of the country to the northern one each year, but there are many unresolved problems: more than 300.000 villagers will have to be relocated to make way to the impressive canal, in some cases far from their original homes. Moreover, such an ambitious project will probably severely alter the ecosystem of the local rivers, with negative effects on people’s health.
The second solution involves a massive work of desalinisation, which would require massive amounts of energy and would only be effective as a “quick fix” solution, while all experts agree that the best course of action should consist in political decisions: heavy fines for polluters and a more rational use of the available supplies through the enactment of new rules.
The gLAWcal Team
Tuesday, February 4 2014
(Source: South China Morning Post)