China’s Huge Dam Projects Will Threaten Southeast Asia as Water Scarcity Builds Downstream

Daniel Rechtschaffen
Forbes
A river is born high in the Tibetan Plateau, before snaking its way 3,000 miles south and emptying itself into the South China Sea.

Environment

03.14.17

Source of Mekong, Yellow, and Yangtze Rivers Drying Up

from chinadialogue
In 2015, the Chinese government announced plans to set up a new nature reserve in the Sanjiangyuan (“three river source”) region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. This area is a key source of fresh water for Asia and is known for the rich biodiversity...

Depth of Field

12.06.16

From West Africa, the Czech Republic, and Home

Ye Ming, Yan Cong & more from Yuanjin Photo
In this month’s Depth of Field, Chinese photojournalists explore foreign terrain, both beyond China’s borders and within them. Independent photographer Yuyang Liu traveled the open seas to document the lives of Chinese and African workers who fish...

Environment

10.25.16

China is Demanding Cleaner Shipping—So Should the Rest of the World

Barbara A. Finamore from chinadialogue
Last year, in response to growing awareness of severe air pollution problems in China’s coastal cities, the Chinese government adopted a ground-breaking program to cut pollution from ships. At its core is a commitment to reduce the sulfur content of...

Environment

07.06.16

China-Backed Hydropower Project Could Disturb a Sensitive Siberian Ecosystem

from Rivers without Boundaries
Lake Baikal contains 20 percent of the world’s freshwater resources and affects the regional climate of North Asia and the Arctic Basin. The lake is home to 2,500 aquatic species and local communities in Mongolia and Russia revere the lake as the “...

Environment

05.19.16

Clear as Mud: How Poor Data is Thwarting Water Clean-Up

from chinadialogue
China’s central and local governments have barely made a start in trying to clean up the country’s heavily polluted water, despite fast-approaching deadlines for improvements and the launch of a comprehensive “ten point plan” over a year ago.Behind...

Features

04.22.16

Drinking the Northwest Wind

Sharron Lovell, Tom Wang & more
Like so many of Mao’s pronouncements, it sounded simple. “The South has a lot of water; the North lacks water. So if it can be done, borrowing a little water and bringing it up might do the trick.” And thus, in 1952, the foundation was laid for what...

Conversation

03.11.16

Is China Doing Enough for the Environment?

Deborah Seligsohn, Angel Hsu & more
This week, at their biggest annual session in Beijing, Chinese lawmakers are expected to ratify the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which contains many new measures to address rampant pollution of the country’s air, soil, and water. Will the plan be...

Environment

03.10.16

How China’s 13th Five-Year Plan Addresses Energy and the Environment

Deborah Seligsohn & Angel Hsu
For the first time ever, a senior Chinese leader announced in his work report to the National People’s Congress—his most important formal speech of the year—that environmental violators and those who fail to report such violations will be “severely...

Green Space

01.14.16

Waking the Green Tiger

This documentary—available in full on ChinaFile throughout January courtesy of filmmaker Gary Marcuse—follows a group of environmental activists trying to prevent the construction of dams on the Nu (Salween) and the Upper Yangtze (Jinsha) rivers in...

Environment

01.11.16

Chinese Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels

from chinadialogue
A study by Climate Central, a non-profit news organization focusing on climate science, showed that 12 other nations have more than 10 million people living on land that would be destroyed should the earth’s temperature rise to 4 degrees Celsius.As...

Green Space

12.15.15

China is ‘Rational’ Leader on Climate Change, Says Retired NASA Scientist James Hansen

Michael Zhao
James Hansen, retired NASA scientist and “father of climate change awareness,” believes China, the world’s largest CO2 emitter, will now step up to provide the carbon emissions reduction leadership lacking from the U.S., according to a Guardian...

Infographics

11.27.15

The Chinese Road to Paris 2015

Davide Vacatello & Valentina Caruso from Chinese Doodles
Beginning on November 30, Paris will host the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP21). Whatever progress is made toward the parties’ agreement on a path forward will depend in large...

Environment

11.11.15

China’s Bottled Water Industry to Exploit Tibetan Plateau

from chinadialogue
Tibet wants to bottle up much more of the region’s water resources, despite shrinking glaciers and the impact that exploitation of precious resources would have on neighboring countries.This week, the Tibet Autonomous Region’s government released a...

Environment

10.19.15

Can the South-North Water Transfer Project and Industry Co-Exist?

from chinadialogue
Sixty-two years after Chairman Mao first envisioned the South-North Water Transfer project, the Middle Route (SNWT-MR) formally began transferring supplies of water from Danjiangkou reservoir on the border of Hubei and Henan in December 2014.In the...

Reports

09.24.15

Bottled Water In China: Boom Or Bust?

Hongqiao Liu
China Water Risk
It has only taken China two decades to become the world’s largest bottled water consumer and a major producer. But given China’s much publicized water woes from pollution to scarcity and droughts, can China’s bottled water market continue to boom?...

Environment

09.03.15

The Yellow River: A History of China’s Water Crisis

from chinadialogue
During the hot, dry month of August 1992, the farmers of Baishan village in Hebei province and Panyang village in Henan came to blows. Residents from each village hurled insults and rudimentary explosives at the other across the Zhang River—the...

Media

07.20.15

Taming the Flood

David Bandurski
In August 1975, Typhoon Nina, one of the most powerful tropical storms on record, surged inland from the Taiwan Strait, causing floods so catastrophic they overwhelmed dam networks around the city of Zhumadian in China’s Henan province. When Banqiao...

Books

06.16.15

The Yellow River

David A. Pietz
Flowing through the heart of the North China Plain―home to 200 million people―the Yellow River sustains one of China’s core regions. Yet this vital water supply has become highly vulnerable in recent decades, with potentially serious repercussions for China’s economic, social, and political stability. The Yellow River is an investigative expedition to the source of China’s contemporary water crisis, mapping the confluence of forces that have shaped the predicament that the world’s most populous nation now faces in managing its water reserves.Chinese governments have long struggled to maintain ecological stability along the Yellow River, undertaking ambitious programs of canal and dike construction to mitigate the effects of recurrent droughts and floods. But particularly during the Maoist years the North China Plain was radically re-engineered to utilize every drop of water for irrigation and hydroelectric generation. As David A. Pietz shows, Maoist water management from 1949 to 1976 cast a long shadow over the reform period, beginning in 1978. Rapid urban growth, industrial expansion, and agricultural intensification over the past three decades of China’s economic boom have been realized on a water resource base that was acutely compromised, with effects that have been more difficult and costly to overcome with each passing decade. Chronicling this complex legacy, The Yellow River provides important insight into how water challenges will affect China’s course as a twenty-first-century global power.―Harvard University Press{chop}

Traces II

Ian Teh
Granta
Few rivers have captured the soul of a nation more deeply than the Yellow River. Historically a symbol of enduring glory, a force of nature both feared and revered, it has provided water for life downstream for thousands...

Infographics

05.18.15

Submerged

Jeffrey Linn & David M. Barreda
Urban planner and cartographer Jeffrey Linn mapped a possible future for China’s coast, where some 43% of its population currently lives, when the earth's polar ice caps and glaciers have all melted and the sea rises if the planet’s temperature...

Reports

04.15.15

Towards A Water & Energy Secure China

Debra Tan, Feng Hu, Hubert Thieriot, Dawn McGregor
China Water Risk
China’s waterscape is changing. Water risks in China, be they physical, economic or regulatory, have great social-economic impacts and are well recognized, especially those in China’s water-energy nexus. Today, 93 percent of power generation in...

Reports

03.02.15

China’s Long March To Safe Drinking Water

Hongqiao Liu
China Water Risk
China’s central government set ambitious goals to safeguard water quality in 2011, at the outset of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015). Those goals targeted improvements from source-to-tap, earmarking a budget of nearly RMB 700 billion (U.S.$112...

Reports

02.01.15

China’s Water-Energy-Food Roadmap

Susan Chan Shifflett, Jennifer L. Turner, Luan Dong, Ilaria Mazzocco, Bai Yunwen
Wilson Center
The water-energy-food nexus is creating a complicated challenge for China and the world. Energy development requires water. Moving and cleaning water requires energy. Food production at all stages—from irrigation to distribution—requires water and...

Environment

12.05.14

The Great Lake in Danger

Wilfredo Miranda Aburto & Carlos Herrera from Confidencial
Southwest of the Maderas volcano, where the Rivas coast is a line fading into the distance, Lake Cocibolca’s inmensity is on prominent display: breezes softly comb stretches of water that are seemingly endless. Sonar has marked this as the deepest...

Environment

12.05.14

A Catastrophe for Nicaragua’s Great Lake

Carlos F. Chamorro from Confidencial
Eighty years old, with more than a dozen books on national geography and natural resources to his name, he is the most authoritative voice in the country on environmental issues. Jaime Incer Barquero, former Minister of the Environment and Natural...

Environment

12.04.14

Indian Critics of Tibet’s First Dam ‘Exaggerating’ Dangers

from chinadialogue
Tibet’s first major dam, the Zangmu hydropower station, started generating electricity at the end of November. This prompted complaints from Indian media that Chinese dam building on the Yarlung Zangbo River could reduce water flow and cause...

Photo Gallery

09.28.14

Traces

Ian Teh
One in five people in the world get their water from great Asian rivers linked to the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in northwestern China. Here, beneath a gently undulating landscape, spring the headwaters of the Yellow River, which sweep three thousands...

Environment

03.11.14

It’s Time to Cooperate on the Yarlung Tsangpo

Isabel Hilton from chinadialogue
This is part of a special series of articles produced by thethirdpole.net on the future of the Yarlung Tsangpo river—one of the world’s great transboundary rivers—which starts on the Tibetan Plateau before passing through India and Bangladesh.The...

Environment

02.26.14

South-North Water Transfer ‘Not Sustainable,’ Official Says

from chinadialogue
The $62 billion South-North Water Transfer Project would be rendered irrelevant if one-third of buildings in Beijing could collect more rainwater and recycle more wastewater, according to a Chinese ministerial official. The remarks made by Qiu...

Environment

02.05.14

China’s Future Energy Security Will Depend on Water

from chinadialogue
When we think about water use we think about the water we drink, but we also need water to grow food, generate electricity, make our clothes, and extract minerals. In short, water drives the economy. In China, ninety-seven percent of electricity...

Environment

01.03.14

Predictions for China’s Environment in 2014

from chinadialogue
From dead pigs in the Shanghai river to toxic smog in major cities, 2013 was a year of dramatic environmental stories in China. We asked some of our contributors for their predictions on how these and other stories are likely to develop in the...

Environment

11.27.13

Life in the Shadow of the Mekong Dams

from chinadialogue
This is the second in a two-part special report on the resettlement rights of villagers displaced by dams along the Mekong (Lancang) River. Part one is an analysis of how China’s resettlement policies are playing out on the ground. Part two, below,...

Environment

05.20.13

Water-Trading Could Exacerbate Water Shortages in China

from chinadialogue
Large-scale engineering projects and rigorous state control are hallmarks of the Chinese developmental model, and both have been apparent in the country’s approach to water management.A US$62 billion project to divert water from the south to the...

Environment

05.16.13

Singapore’s Growth Story Holds Lessons for Water-Scarce China

from chinadialogue
When the tiny city-state of Singapore gained independence in 1965, its social, economic, political, and environmental constraints appeared so formidable that many of those looking in from outside predicted a future of dismal dimensions.Forty years...

Environment

02.19.13

China’s Disappointing Absence from U.N. Water Summit

from chinadialogue
After recent heated debate over China’s mega-dam plans, any visitor to the launch on February 11 of the U.N.’s much-vaunted International Year of Water Cooperation would have been disappointed.As well as a notable absence of any...

Environment

02.07.13

Xi Jinping Must Tackle Corruption and Boost Innovation in Food Sector

from chinadialogue
In January 2013, Australia’s biggest supermarket chain Woolworths began restricting sales of baby formula to four tins per customer after a massive increase in demand stripped shelves bare of popular brands such as Karicare.The buyers were not...

Worse Than Poisoned Water: Dwindling Water, in China’s North

Didi Kirsten Tatlow
New York Times
When 39 tons of the toxic chemical aniline spilled from a factory in Changzhi in China’s Shanxi province at the end of December, polluting drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people downstream along the Zhuozhang River and dangerously...

As Wen Jiabao Departs, China’s Dam Plans to Accelerate

David Stanway
Reuters
Dam building slowed considerably under Wen, who personally intervened to block hydropower projects and avoid the potential for protest from local populations. Projects such as the $59 billion Three Gorges Dam have been the focus of criticism over...

Environment

10.19.12

Overfishing Pushes 80% of Chinese Fishermen Towards Bankruptcy

from chinadialogue
In mid-September, the fishing season got under way as usual in Ningbo, on China’s east coast, after the three-month season when fishing is forbidden. Over 2,000 steel-hulled boats headed out to sea. But, on board, there was little cause for optimism...

Water-transfer Projects "Essential," Says Chinese Scientist

Xu Nan, Zhang Chun
chinadialogue
So the ability to move water around is essential, to distribute the water more evenly. Of course you need to work in coordination, to balance the ecological impact. But you can’t store and transfer water without dams and reservoirs, can you?

Environment

08.28.12

China’s South-North Water Transfer is “Irrational”

from chinadialogue
Ruth Matthews, executive director of the Water Footprint Network, tells Tom Levitt how food has come to dominate our water use and why China may need to re-think its South-North water transfer project.Tom Levitt: What do you mean by our water...

Caixin Media

08.13.12

We Make It Pour, Declare Cloud-Seeders

Will it be clear or gray skies today? Increasingly, the answer in China may be decided by the government.The Chinese have been seeding clouds for decades. Airplanes equipped with rocket-launchers and chemicals for inducing rainfall are based in...

China's Unsafe Drinking Water

Gong Jing
Hurtling beneath the ground, there are sturdy new subways coursing through every major urban center of China like an electric current of modernity. The country's rapid urbanization in a matter of mere decades has produced engineering marvels...

Caixin Media

07.06.12

Land of Vanishing Lakes

The last lakes in Hubei province are shrinking so fast that no one knows whether new government regulations—the latest leg of a sixteen-year-old environmental scramble—can reverse the disappearing act.The province has been losing its once-bountiful...

Environment

06.29.12

The Double Life of Dali Lake

from chinadialogue
Every spring, migratory birds start arriving at Dali Lake in Inner Mongolia just as the fish-breeding season gets under way. This has been the time—at least until recently—when herders living around the lake have heard the sounds of firecrackers...

Video

03.29.12

A Story of Invisible Water

Lynn Zhang
A Story of Invisible Water examines the problem of water pollution and drought in the northeastern Chinese province of Hebei. Farmers in Xizhang village claim that for more than twenty years, local factories have polluted the groundwater they use...

Sinica Podcast

06.03.11

Water on the Brink

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
As the southern Yangtze region struggles with its worst drought in a century, China’s grand plans for water diversion projects and its Three Gorges Dam have come under renewed scrutiny, as have expectations Beijing can maintain economic stability...

Reports

12.01.07

Wanjiazhai Water Transfer Project: Key Factors and Assesment

World Bank
China's impressive economic performance since 1978 with a growth rate of GDP of 9.5 percent per year has been mainly in the industrial and commercial sectors and is concentrated in urban areas; as a result, urban water demand has increased by...