Solving China’s water shortage key to ensuring growth

By Liu Zhiqin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/14 23:28:41

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT


Recently, some observers have warned that China's current water crisis is imminent, and if the problem cannot be solved effectively, it will limit China's implementation of the next step of its economic plans.

Although there has been an imbalance between the supply and demand of China's water resources for a long time and the nation's economic development is indeed facing the pressure of water scarcity, the situation is not necessarily pessimistic.

If water is used more rationally, the water crisis can be mitigated and even avoided.

The causes of the scarcity of water in China are related to natural and human factors. In term of nature, China has always been a country with unbalanced water resources among its regions. As to human behavior, reform and opening-up has exacerbated the scarcity of water resources. As some areas rushed to industrialize and urbanize, huge amounts of water resources were wasted.

The fundamental reason is the lack of the basic principle of sustainable utilization and scientific distribution. In addition, due to the development of large urban clusters in China, there have been many contradictions in the use of water resources. Balancing the relationship between economic development and the protection of water resources is still an important issue for the Chinese government.

China has made special efforts to allocate water resources. These efforts have produced great economic benefits, but contradictions and limits also exist.

From the construction of the ancient Grand Canal to the contemporary South-to-North Water Diversion project or West-to-East Water Diversion project, the Chinese people have sought to change or use nature.

Such projects have obviously eased the pressure on water-scarce areas and played a positive role in local economic development, urbanization and industrialization.

However, they only meet urgent short-term needs. In particular, when southern regions have water shortages, the South-North Water Diversion project will face major bottlenecks.

China can further ease the water crisis through conservation and rational use in the process of urbanization, re-industrialization and new industry development. But other strategies can be taken into consideration.

The first is to control China's water exports. The annual flow of Chinese rivers to international rivers or the volume flowing out of the country far exceeds the annual inflows of water, an indication that we have lost too much water, which should be taken seriously and fully utilized.

Second, China should make great efforts to solve another problem, which is that the water volume into the sea of freshwater rivers in our country greatly exceeds our domestic freshwater reserves. Can't we propose projects to save and use this kind of water? We can build reservoirs in related areas, just like oil storage tanks, letting these waters flow back into China. Because our terrain is low in the east and high in the west, this will definitely be a large project, but its value and significance will be also enormous.

Third, I proposed the North-South Snow Transportation 20 years ago. This would involve transporting snow from northern areas to southern areas. In Inner Mongolia and Northeast China, a large amount of snow is wasted annually. This snow can be shipped in frozen form to provinces like Shaanxi and Shanxi for storage rather than being wasted. With our high-speed rail and expressway networks, this would not be difficult to realize financially and technically.

China's water crisis can be avoided by following these proposals. An important factor in the future safety of China's economic development is the rational use of water. This should be a key priority. Water resources are important national strategic resources. It comes down to the sound and sustainable development of our economy and must not be ignored.

The author is a senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial studies at Renmin University of China. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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