Sustainable water use

Updated: 2011-10-15 07:27

(China Daily)

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THE VOWED 30 PERCENT REDUCTION IN WATER consumption for every 10,000-yuan ($1,560) of gross domestic product (GDP) during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) highlights the Chinese authorities' determination to bring the country's fast-growing economy back onto a more sustainable and greener track.

It should also serve as a concrete measure for the world's most populous nation to launch an urgently needed campaign for water conservation.

Vice-Minister of Water Resources, Jiao Yong, highlighted this point on Wednesday while elaborating the five-year program for national water resources development.

Late last year, the State Council approved the first-ever middle and long-term national water resources development strategy, demanding water usage for every 10,000 yuan-worth GDP be reduced 50 percent by 2020 from the 2008 level and an additional 40 percent after 2020.

For a country constantly plagued by drought and floods, how to effectively protect its limited water resources and improve the efficiency of their usage remains particularly urgent.

China has only a quarter of world's average in terms of fresh water resources, ranking the 110th in the world. Among 600 Chinese cities, more than 400 suffer from an insufficiency of water, 110 seriously, including some along the Yangtze River, the country's longest river.

Worse, the decades-long rapid economic growth means the country's limited water resources are increasingly threatened by pollution. Statistics show that more than 70 percent of China's rivers and 60 percent of its underground water resources are polluted to different degrees.

After decades of extensive, highly polluting economic development, the country is poised to slow its economic growth and turn to a more sustainable development path.

Beijing has set a good example for its domestic counterparts in the transformation of its economic model. Coupled with a considerable decline in energy intensity, the water consumption for every 10,000 yuan of GDP in the capital has declined considerably, decreasing to 24.9 cubic meters in 2010 from 49.5 cubic meters in 2005.

It is expected that other regions will follow Beijing's emerging green, low-carbon and sustainable economic development model. However, as the country's GDP-centered performance assessment mechanism has not been completely abandoned, there is little possibility that local governments will fully restrain their impulse for GDP development.

To ensure the 100 percent realization of the national energy and water saving targets mapped out, the country should hold accountable officials whose regions fail to attain these targets and lay down a set of strict punishment measures.

(China Daily 10/15/2011 page5)