China water crisis

China water crisis

The China water crisis threatens the stability and prosperity not only in People's Republic of China but globally too, according to John McAlister from the firm Aquabiotronics. According to the World Bank forecast, Mainland China has only a per-capita share of 2700 cubic meters per annum, one fourth of the world's average.


Chinese experts warn that by 2030 when China's population reaches 1.6 billion, per capita water resources will drop to 1760 cubic meters -- perilously close to 1700 cubic meters, the internationally recognized benchmark for water shortages. Half of China's 617 largest cities face water deficits. Beijing is among the most water-short.

Regional disparity

The areas south of the Yangtze River, China's longest, which account for only 36.5 per cent of the country's total territory, have 80.9 per cent of its total water resources. However the areas north of the Yangtze, which make up 63.5 per cent of China, possess only 19.1 per cent of total water resources.

Activism in PRC

Leading Chinese environmental activist and journalist Ma Jun has warned that China is facing a water crisis that includes water shortages, water pollution and a deterioration in water quality. 400 out of 600 cities in China are facing water shortages to varying degrees, including 30 out of the 32 largest cities. (reference missing) Discharges of waste water have increased continually over the years 2001-2006, and Ma's statistics show that 300 million peasants’ drinking water is not safe.

He has warned: "In the north, due to the drying up of the surface water, the underground water has been over-extracted. The situation is not sustainable. Though the south has abundant water, there is a lack of clean water due to serious water pollution. Even water-abundant deltas like the Yangtze and the Pearl River suffer from water shortages."

In 2004 the World Bank warned that the scarcity of the resource would lead to "a fight between rural interests, urban interests and industrial interests on who gets water in China".) The validity of this prediction was confirmed, for example, in April 2005 when many people were injured in Dongyang city, Zhejiang Province, in clashes over the nearby chemical factories of the Juxi Industrial Park accused of water pollution that harmed crops and led to deformed babies being born.

World Bank forecasts

If presents trends are not reversed, the World Bank forecasts that by 2020 there will be 30 million environmental refugees in China due to water stress

  • With 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of water global resources, China meets with a severe challenge.
  • More than half of China’s 660 cities suffer from water shortages, affecting 160 million people.
  • The per capita water volume in China is one fourth of the world average.
  • 90% of cities’ groundwater and 75% of rivers and lakes are polluted.
  • As a result of widespread water pollution, 700 million people drink contaminated water every day.
  • Waterborne diseases have created a rising number of premature deaths.
  • Between November 2005 and January 2006, three large-scale incidents occurred, halting water supply for millions of people and raising awareness of the challenges ahead.
  • The government plans to mitigate water pollution by investing in wastewater treatment facilities.


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