China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Four uncertainties threatening water resources in China

UPDATED: 16:45, February 20, 2006 Via People`s Daily

"The development of water resources in China is very demanding and the situation quite serious. Aridity, waterlogging, water pollution as well as soil erosion are four major problems threatening the development of water resources in China," pointed out Wang Shucheng, minister of water resources during an interview on Feb. 19.

The contradiction between the lack of water resources and the increasing demand of water by economic and social development becomes more and more troublesome. The per capita water resources in China is 2,200 cubic meters, equivalent to one quarter of the world's average level. The water deficit in normal years across the country approximates 40 billion cubic meters.

Additionally, the exploitation and utilisation of water resources in some valleys and regions has approached or even exceed the water environment's bearing capacity.

Along with the social and economic development and the upgrading of people's living standard, the demand on water resources is also on the rise. However, the development and utilisation of water resources as well as the harnessing of rives have become more and more difficult. And the shortage of water resources will aggravate with each passing day.

The contradiction between the fragile flood prevention system and the safeguarding of people's lives and property is a problem that requires immediate attention. Over half of major branches of great rivers and small rivers are still yet to be effectively harnessed. The construction of pondage land and detention basin is rather backward and the monitoring and prevention level of such natural disasters as flooding and landslide fall behind. Flooding, which takes heavy death tolls and causes property loss every year, is still a serious hidden trouble in China.

The contradiction between heavy water pollution, soil erosion and sustainable development becomes prominent. The total amount of sewage discharge nationwide is climbing year on year, seriously polluting the lakes and rivers and hampering the improvement of general water environment.

Soil erosion and ecological deterioration have not been fundamentally controlled. Over-exploitation of groundwater has resulted in the zero-flow of rivers, drying of lakes, shrinking of wetland as well as disappearing of oasis in some regions, holding up the sustainable development.

The contradiction of the backwardness of rural water resources development and the building of a new socialist countryside is outstanding. The rural water conservancy infrastructure is fragile and one third of national irrigation areas are medium and low yielding corps. Meanwhile, many buildings in large irrigation areas are damaged and most of drainage and irrigation pumping stations old and broken.

Agricultural production in these areas still depends on the passive situation of "living on local weather conditions". So far the high-fluoride water and bitter water threaten farmers' health, and there are still millions of farmers inaccessible to safe drinking water.

Little water resources for a large population, imbalanced distribution of water resources as well as a bad relationship between water resources and economic and social development best illustrate the basic situation of water resources in China. Furthermore, the extensive economic growth pattern also aggravates the water problems and hinders its possible ways out.

Generally speaking, aridity, flooding, water pollution as well as soil erosion have both urgently demanded a well-balanced relationship between water resources and sustainable development and exposed the disadvantages of the long-term extensive economic growth pattern.

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