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Publish date: 01/04/2014
Source of news: globaltimes

Water pollution threatens to choke national growth at root

Although China's air pollution keeps making headlines recently, water pollution is just as urgent a problem.

On February 18, the Xinhua News Agency reported that China plans to spend 2 trillion yuan ($330 billion) on an action plan to tackle pollution of its scarce water resources, following the 1.8 trillion yuan package for air cleaning.

How severe is the extent of the damage? Since 2011, a series of water pollution cases have been exposed, like the oil leakage in the Bohai Bay, the cadmium contamination along the Longjiang River of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the dead pigs incident in Shanghai's Huangpu River.

These are not accidental, but are cumulative outbreaks of the long-standing and deep-seated water problems from our rapid development.

Government figures can show a broader picture of its severity.

One-fifth of the rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. A 2012 nationwide survey of 5,000 groundwater checkpoints found that 57.3 percent of the samples tested were heavily polluted.

Experts say the three main polluters are the industrial discharge, domestic rubbish, and the agricultural pesticide contamination.

The deteriorating water is not a local threat, but a national presence.

Last year, China's watchdog for disease control confirmed that water pollution was responsible for the high cancer rates along the Huaihe River and its tributaries.

Xinhua reported that water pollution may be linked to the increase in cancer cases in more than 247 villages nationwide. Over 300 million rural residents cannot drink safe water, and at least 4 million hectares of farmland is irrigated with polluted water.

Water pollution can put our economic sustainability on the line. China has one-fifth of the world's population but with just 7 percent of its water resources. The limited water reserves cannot tolerate more water pollutions.

Qiu Baoxing, Vice Minister of Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, was quoted by Caixin Magazine as saying that "based on international experience, when the urbanization rate reaches 50 percent, it is highly possible that a peak period of water pollution will be around the corner in the coming years."

This reliance can cast a big shadow over the future use of water. The international water resource NGO, Circle of Blue, predicts that China's demand for water will keeps growing to a degree that will outstrip the supply by 25 percent in 2030, and then eight out of the 10 major Chinese rivers will face water shortages.

Without enough water supplies, the possible consequences are that factories shut down, and urbanization stagnates, which in turn will hurt the economy, let alone the aftermath of polluting the limited water sources.

It is not too late to take precautions after suffering losses from the severe water pollution. We need to come out with more concrete policies to spend the 2 trillion yuan effectively, and make the advocate of building a "beautiful China" more tangible.

Lei Xiangping, an editor with the news desk of China Radio International


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