A province in north China that supplies Beijing with much needed water is itself facing serious shortages of the resource, state media reported ahead of World Water Day yesterday.
Li Qinglin, director of Hebei’s water conservation department, said water shortages had become a big problem for the province’s social and economic development, Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday.
“Water resources in Hebei have dwindled by nearly 50 percent in recent years,” Li said.
Hebei, part of China’s parched northern region, is one of the major suppliers of water to Beijing and Tianjin, which grouped together account for at least 28 million people and are running out of the resource.
China’s rapid economic expansion has helped deplete its water supplies and has long been one of the country’s major concerns.
Probe International, a leading development policy group, has warned that the city of Beijing faces economic collapse and will need to resettle part of its population in coming decades as it could run out of water in five to 10 years.
Previous Xinhua reports have said that Beijing and surrounding areas, including most of Hebei, have suffered droughts every year since 1999.
Li said that Hebei was consuming approximately 21 billion cubic meters of water annually with only 17 billion cubic meters of surface water, leaving groundwater to supply the rest, Xinhua said.
He urged the government to take steps to reduce water consumption for the sake of sustainable economic and social development.
China is in the process of building the multi-billion dollar North-South Water Diversion Project to bring water from the nation’s longest river, the Yangtze, to the parched north.
Xinhua has said that by 2010, when much of the north-south water diversion project is to be completed, up to 1 billion cubic meters of water will be diverted to Beijing annually, mostly from the Yangtze.
World Water Day has been held every year on March 22 since 1993.