Pollution in China

For a country with 1.2 billion people, China’s expanding economy and vast population are facing some challenging environmental concerns. Pollution of the water supply and garbage management are two of the most important challenges.

China does not have a lot of water. The country’s water supply per person is actually relatively low. Water that does exist is spread unevenly over China’s vast geography. Treatment facilities are also insufficient to reduce excessive levels of agricultural and industrial contamination.

Every day, China generates around 3.5 million tons of sewage waste. To cure half of that amount, they’d need to build 10,000 treatment centers. Although there are some sophisticated wastewater treatment plants and sanitation systems in place, many more are needed.

Half of China’s population, or 600 million people, consume water tainted by human or animal waste. These folks are vulnerable to waterborne disease and a slew of other human health issues associated with the usage of contaminated water.

The scope of the problem may be seen in China’s major river systems. Approximately 70% of their water is so filthy that it is unfit for human use. A major portion of this pollution comes from high-growth industries including textiles, paper production, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, in addition to untreated sewage dumped into these waterways.

Toxic runoff from dumps frequently percolates into the earth, contaminating groundwater aquifers. Some waters are contaminated with such high metal content from untreated mining and industrial waste that they literally run red with rust-colored water. Lead levels in Chinese waterways have been found to be 44 times higher than established guidelines.

Clean water is critical to China’s agrarian economy, which utilizes over 75% of the country’s total water supply. Heavy metals in water can be absorbed by food crops cultivated with that water, causing cancer, renal stones, and other health issues.

Rice, China’s cash crop, has witnessed lower yields in some areas, and many consumers are apprehensive about consuming food grown with contaminated water.

China is also the world’s greatest consumer of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. An imbalance of organic materials can arise when an excessive amount of nitrogen and other chemicals used in fertilizers are injected into a stream, resulting in increased algae blooms. Increased algae blooms have a negative impact on the water supply, and in certain parts of China, drinking water plants have already been temporarily shut down.

Although there are solutions to China’s challenges, putting them in place on the scale required will be a tremendous job.