China has 19% of the world’s population but only 7% of the water and lot of attention is being paid to the negative consequences of environmental pollution in the country. Due to the lack of water resources and the polluted state of many of those resources, a crisis is brewing of equally dangerous consequences for people’s health and for the country’s development: water scarcity.
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds states with regard to China, “climate change, urbanization trends and middle class lifestyles will create huge water demand and crop shortages by 2030.” Aside from its economic and public health costs, water scarcity also endangers economic growth and social stability.
Lack of water in China is compounded by the high levels of water pollution. The Ministry of Water Resources stated in 2012 that up to 40 percent of China’s rivers were seriously polluted after 75 billion tons of sewage and waste water were discharged into them. In addition, about two-thirds of Chinese cities are “water needy” and that nearly 300 million rural residents lack access to safe drinking water.
This is a paradoxical situation since China is one of the most water-rich countries in the world. However, its water resources are unevenly distributed since they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the south part of the country while the northern regions are prone to lack of water, a situation which is reaching crisis levels.
The Ministry of Water Resources announced in 2012 the results of a survey of the country’s waterways which revealed that 28,000 rivers had disappeared over the past 20 years, raising serious fears among environmentalists and government officials.