Water, water, everywhere but not really in China. Though an important strategic resource, it has always been in short supply and wasted aplenty, without much thought for its conservation. But two recent government announcements may well prove the old adage wrong.
A work report submitted to the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, indicated that the government is planning to impose strict controls on water resources management to prevent misuse. Last month, the Ministry of Water Resources said it would invest more than 140 billion yuan ($22.2 billion, 16.9 billion euros) on water conservancy projects this year, while the total investment on such projects between 2011 and 2015 is expected to be about 1.8 trillion yuan.
Though China accounts for about 20 percent of the global population, its freshwater resources are just 7 percent.
Despite the shortfall, the nation has been able to maintain a bumper harvest for eight consecutive years, something that Chen Lei, minister for water resources, terms as a “China Miracle.”
But Chen knows his task is far from over and that the road ahead is a bumpy one. Though the main priority is to conserve water resources, efforts are also on at the ministry to utilize the existing resources fully, without wastage. Steps to channel more foreign investment to the sector are also being charted and China is hoping to make a lasting impression at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France on March 12.
Since 2008, China has added more than 50 million people to its population, while its freshwater resources have fallen by 11.4 percent to 2,402 billion cubic meters, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The per capita water resources quota in China is 2,100 cubic meters, or 28 percent of the global average. A study “Charting Our Water Future”, by global consultancy McKinsey and the Water Resources Group, says that by 2030 China could face a gaping water shortage of 201 billion cubic meters, which is about one-third of China’s current annual consumption of 600 billion cubic meters.
Water security has now become an integral issue for the government, says Zhong Lijin, senior associate at the China office of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based global environmental think tank, referring to the recent “strict water resources management system”.
Source: China Daily (Abbreviated)
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