Officials must reform water supply policies

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2002, 12:00am

Since 1972, there have been incidences of the Yellow River drying up in Shandong province.

The growing water demand in northern China far exceeds the river's available resources.

The central government is proposing to divert water from the Yangtze River to the Yellow River by constructing three new channels.

It may seem that this is the appropriate solution, but I am not so sure. Like the Three Gorges Dam project, these channels may not, collectively, be the solution to the problems besetting the Yellow River.

The government can use melted glacier water in the northwest region or ground water which would cost much less and yield swift results. It should also do something about the proliferation of small rural enterprises such as cement works and fertiliser factories that use and pollute huge quantities of water. Anti-pollution laws should be enforced.

New policies must be formulated for the agricultural sector, which is the largest user of water. Farmers should be charged by the amount of water used instead of by the size of the land being irrigated. Officials should also promote new types of agriculture which require less water.

Only through widespread improvements in the management of existing resources can China maintain a high growth rate in its northern region. Diverting water will only be a temporary solution otherwise.


Tsuen Wan