Chapter 6: Water Wallies
6. Water wallies1 China is by all accounts short of water. The average amount of water per person in China is only 2300–2400 m3 per year, a quarter of the world average. Local and international scholars, officials and newspapers all explain that the shortage of water constrains economic development.2 Water is most scarce in the north, particularly on the North China Plain, where agriculture, industry and municipalities demand more water than is available.3 In the Hai, Huai, and Huang (Yellow) River Basins, there is only 358–750 m3 of renewable water per person per year. Shortages are compounded by pollution, falling groundwater levels, land subsidence and sea water intrusion.4 According to Wang Shucheng, Minister of Water Resources from November 1998 to April 2007, water shortages pose the biggest challenge to the government’s quest to develop an affluent society within 20 years.5 Shortages occur in part because more and more farmers in northern China irrigate their crops, but mostly because city dwellers and industry demand more and more water.6 Water shortages in grain-producing regions limit agricultural production and may yet provoke food crises.7 There is a growing clamour for measures to restrict the growth of demand, particularly to reallocate water from supposedly inefficient agricultural users to the rapidly increasing industrial and urban users, and an equal interest in moving water from where it is abundant (in and south of the Changjiang valley) to where it is less abundant (the north).8 Many international development agencies argue that the best solution...
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