Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can China Cope with Its Water Crisis?

A leading international groundwater expert, Professor Zheng Chunmiao of Peking University (PKU) gave an invited presentation to 20 former heads of states and governments at the 30th annual planetary meeting of the InterAction Council held on May 10-12, 2012 in Tianjin, China.

The InterAction Council was established in 1983 as an independent international organization to mobilize the experience, energy and international contacts of a group of statesmen who have held the highest office in their own countries. Council members jointly develop recommendations and practical solutions for the political, economic and social problems confronting humanity. Current council members include former US President Bill Clinton, former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chr├ętien, former Chancellor of Austria Franz Vranitzky, former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, and former Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Tung Chee-hwa.
The Council selects specific issues and develops proposals for action from the most urgent and important areas and communicates these proposals directly to government leaders, other national decision-makers, heads of international organizations and influential individuals around the world. 

The four topics of the 2012 annual meeting are “Present State of the World”, “Global Financial Crisis”, “Global Security Imperatives” and “Global Water Crisis”. There are three experts who were invited to the meeting.  The Other two presenters were Dr. Henry Vaux, Jr., Chair of Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy from the United States, and Mr. MoneefZou’bi, Director General of Islamic World Academy of Sciences from Jordan.

In his presentation entitled “Can China Cope with Its Water Crisis?”, Zheng mentioned that the water resource per capita in China is only one fourth of the world’s average, placing China about 120th among all countries. Because China’s water resources are distributed very unevenly in both space and time, many parts of north and west China suffer from far more severe water scarcity. For example, in the North China Plain, the water resource per capita is actually less than 1/20th of the world’s average.  In addition to water shortage, other water related environmental problems exist, including water quality deterioration, river dry-up, groundwater depletion, and land subsidence induced by groundwater overdraft.
Formidable challenges often come with great opportunities. Zheng described some of these opportunities, including the designation of water and energy as the top two national priorities by the Chinese government and the anticipated investment of one trillion RMB into the Chinese water services market over 2009-2014.

Finally, Zheng discussed some of the measures being implemented or considered to combat water scarcity, including water conservation, increased water use efficiency, rainwater harvesting, desalination, water price reform and transfer.

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