World Bank presses China to take action to
prevent water shortages
U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- Future generations in China could face
catastrophe unless the government quickly solves acute water shortage
and pollution problems, the World Bank warned in a report issued
The bank urged the government to immediately implement actions
needed to bring use of water resources back into a sustainable
``Continuing and accelerating growth of population and industry
over the past century in China has resulted in increasingly severe
problems related to freshwater shortage,'' the bank said.
``The acute water shortage and pollution problems in north China
will soon become unmanageable -- with catastrophic consequences for
future generations -- unless much more significant, comprehensive,
and sustained commitments are made'' to act, the report said.
It also said new pricing, management and regulatory strategies
must be in place for the success of a government plan to transfer
water from the Yangtze River in the south to the dry northern region.
The report says the lack of water resources is most evident in the
Yellow, Hai and Huai river basins in northern China. This region
accounts for 67 percent of China's wheat production, 44 percent of
its corn and 72 percent of its millet.
Total agricultural production from the three-river basin is worth
$14.4 billion a year.
The report said water shortages for industry, domestic consumption
and irrigation have been growing in magnitude and frequency, creating
severe economic loss.
``Many rivers in the three-basin area are dry for five to eight
months of the year,'' the report said.
To avert risk of further social and economic distress, the bank is
recommending more efficient irrigation programs, wastewater reuse,
price increases and transfer of water from the south.
The report outlines a $11.1 billion 25-year action plan to improve
water management, including investment in sewage treatment plants
along the Hai and Huai rivers.
It says the government should allocate resources based on market
conditions, not administrative planning principles.
The report also criticizes China's Ministry of Water Resources,
saying current arrangements do not offer a coherent, integrated
approach to solving the urgent and complex problems facing the
``Implementation of institutional reforms is likely to be the most
difficult component of proposed action and the one likely to generate
the most resistance and controversy because some institutions will
have to relinquish power of authority to different or newly created
institutions,'' the report said.
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