Why China Is Running Out Of Water


China has gone through rapid industrial growth
in the last half century and, as a result, the country continues to suffer from record-breaking
levels of pollution, drought, poor food quality and smog. But experts say China’s most urgent
problem is its water supply, which has plummeted to dangerously low levels. So, what’s happening
to China’s water? Well, the issue largely one of supply and
demand. China is home to just under one-and-a-half billion people, or about 20 percent of the
global population, and yet it holds only seven percent of the world’s fresh water. Further
complicating the matter, 80 percent of this water is in Southern China, while half the
population and two-thirds of the farmland is in the north. That means Northern cities
must get their water from rivers in the South by way of man-made pipelines and canals, also
known as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. When this launched in 2014, state
media promoted it as the cure to the country’s water woes. But due to grossly outdated miscalculations
of the south’s water supply, which has dwindled from climate change and drought, the project
has had little effect on the crisis at large. Today, more than one hundred metropolitan
areas face severe water shortage and some, like Lintao in the North, have run out completely. On top of this, most of the water China does
have is heavily polluted. More than 80 percent of the country’s water from underground
wells is not suitable for drinking or bathing, and nearly half of its rivers are too polluted
to even touch. This is largely a result of emissions, industrial spills and chemical
runoff from manufacturing facilities. For instance the Yellow River, which played a
key part in the development of early Chinese agriculture and civilization, is now lined
with thousands of petrochemical plants, leaving only 16 percent of it usable for household
purposes. And although China has regulations in place to mitigate industrial pollution,
companies can often get around them by negotiating with local officials. Lack of clean water
has forced many city-dwellers to resort to polluted water for household use. In fact,
nearly a quarter of China’s population, or about 300 million people, drink contaminated
water every day. According to one report, polluted water is responsible for 190 million
people falling ill per year. And, China’s water problems are expected
to get worse. The country’s rapidly growing population and industrialization, coupled
with its increasing demand for coal, is expected to drop its water supply to dangerously low
levels by 2030. This crisis is already costing China more than $200 billion dollars per year,
and, according to the world bank, it could eventually lead to a war over the country’s
rural, urban and industrial interests. In 1999, China’s Premier called the country’s
water problems a threat to the “very survival of the Chinese nation”. Fifteen years later,
and with no foreseeable solution, it seems as though his fears are coming true. China’s water issues don’t end with drinking
water. The South China Sea has been an enormous source of territorial contention for China
and its neighbors, even sparking fears about war. So what’s going on in the South China
Sea? check out this video! Thanks for watching Seeker Daily, don’t forget to like
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