Woes and solutions

TOO MUCH WATER

Every year, parts of China are afflicted by floods. In June and July this year, 32 million people in 26 provinces were affected by flooding due to heavy rain, with more than 300 killed. Some 280,000ha of farmland were destroyed, with the damage estimated to reach US$22 billion (S$31 billion).

TOO LITTLE WATER

Every Chinese person has access to around 2,200 cubic metres of water a year, which can nearly fill one Olympic-size swimming pool. This is less than 30 per cent of the global average. Some 320 million villagers have no access to potable water and more than 400 cities face water shortages.

DIRTY WATER

Three major rivers - Liao in the north-east, Hai in Tianjin, and Huai in the east - as well as three major lakes - Taihu in Jiangsu, Dianchi in Yunnan and Chaohu in Anhui - are heavily polluted and often suffer from algae outbreaks.

MUDDY WATER

Soil erosion and falling water table levels have triggered environmental problems, including sandstorms.

WHAT'S BEING DONE

China said last year it aims to have at least 70 per cent of the water in seven key river basins, such as the Yangtze River, reach a level fit for human use by 2020. Steps taken include shutting down small-scale polluting factories such as pesticide makers.

It also aims to use industrial water, reclaimed water and sea water to augment the water supply. To date, China has built 112 water desalination facilities with a combined daily treatment capacity of 1.08 million cubic metres.

In addition, it has started on a project to build "sponge cities" across the country to combat flooding and offer solutions to water shortages. Measures include building an integrated urban water system and upgrading the urban drainage system so that excess water can be absorbed for use. Sixteen cities, including Wuhan in Hubei province, have been selected for the pilot programme.

Chong Koh Ping

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Woes and solutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe