Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Friday, November 16, 2001
China's Water Shortage to Hit Danger Limit in 2030
China will experience a serious water crisis in 30 years, with per capita water resources quota to be only 1,700 cubic meters, a generally acknowledged danger limit, by 2030, when its population reaches 1.6 billion.
The ministry reported that China's per capita water resources quota will be only 1,700 cubic meters, a generally acknowledged danger limit, by 2030, when its population reaches 1.6 billion.
China possesses two of the world's longest rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow River with water reserves totaling 2.81 trillion cubic meters, the fifth richest in the world after Brazil, Russia, Canada and the United States. Calculations made based on population and acreage of arable land in 1997 show the country's per capita water resources quota is only 2,200 cubic meters, 25 percent of the world's average.
By 2030, water resources quota for per mu (15 mu equal to one hectare) of arable land will be 1,900 cubic meters, 80 percent of the world's average.
However, the fact is that China's water resources and arable land are not balanced between then northern and southern parts, which has created severe shortages in certain areas.
Statistics show that more than 80 percent of the country's water resources are distributed in the Yangtze River Valleys and areas to the south of the Yangtze. These areas account for 53.5 percent of the population of China and 35.2 percent of the nation's total acreage of arable land.
Meanwhile, only 14.7 percent of the country's water resources are distributed in the vast areas to the north of the Yangtze, where the amount of arable land accounts for 59.2 percent of the national total, and the population makes up 44.4 percent of the total number.
The Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe river valleys in northern China face the most serious water shortages.
Zhang Jirao, vice-minister of water resources, said that China's major rivers all run from west to east and are separated by watersheds.
Zhang said building water diversion projects that cover different river valleys is important for adjusting water resources in the country and guaranteeing China's sustainable economic development and social progress.
In addition to uneven distribution, serious soil erosion, deforestation, land conversion and excessive water usage for agricultural production have aggravated water shortages. Converting the wetlands of lake shores into rice paddies has devastated China's rich lake resources. In recent decades, 815 lakes in central China's Hubei Province, once known as "Thousand-Lake Province" have dried up. Hunan Province's Dongting Lake, the second largest fresh water lake in China, has decreased by 2,350 km2 since 1949.
Overextraction of groundwater for industrial and domestic use in urban areas has lowered groundwater tables in urban centers. In Beijing, for example, water tables are lowered 1.5 - 2 meters a year. Lower tables not only aggravate water shortages, but also lower water quality and increase the risk of earthquakes and landslides.
Finally, the inefficient use of limited water supply has worsened the situation. China only recycles 20-30 percent of its industrial water, and water consumption per industrial product is 5 - 10 times higher than that of industrialized countries.
Furthermore, according to Geology of China only 25-30 percent of irrigation water is effectively utilized due to poor irrigation facilities. It is estimated that 2.5 million tons of grain yield are lost each year due to water shortages.
The preparation work of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project has met the technical requirements for the start of construction in 2002, said Zhang Jiyao, vice minister of Water Resources.
The project, which grew from a strategy first bandied about in 1958, aims to divert water from the south to the north of China soas to ensure the water supply for farming and industry there.
"So far, consensus has been reached on all aspects of the project, including priorities, layout, water-pollution controls, water-saving measures, protection of ecosystems, investment shares and water pricing." (Full Text)