China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization along with over exploitation and abuse of natural resources has led to serious water pollution and water scarcity that is approaching crisis proportions.
A recently released annual environmental bulletin by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) reveals that over 30 percent of the country’s rivers and over 50 percent of groundwater are below national water quality standards. The continuing deterioration of water quality affecting people’s lives and health has become one of the most urgent existential crises for China.
In the first half of 2013, 12 state-controlled surface water monitoring stations revealed that heavy metal content at these sites surpassed national water quality standards by 22 times. Water samples taken from the Yangtze River and the Yellow River showed that mercury exceeded safe levels by 50 percent, followed by arsenic at 36.4 percent, according to a semiannual report by the MEP, released on Aug. 2.
Wastewater discharged nationwide in 2012 totaled 68.46 billion tons, according to the bulletin. Of the 1,200 rivers being monitored, 850 are contaminated, and over 90 percent of watersheds were contaminated.
State-controlled sections of the top 10 watersheds, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, 20.9 percent had “mild” pollution and 10.2 percent “medium-level” pollution, according to the statistical data in the bulletin.
Of the 4,929 groundwater-quality monitoring points in 198 cities, 57.3 percent reported “poor” or “very poor” water quality.
Groundwater quality has been degraded from massive dumping of untreated or partially treated wastewater. In addition, increased urbanization and industrial development in recent years have led to a growing overdraft of groundwater in some regions, which has significantly lowered the water level, Chinacitywater.org cited Zhang Hongtao, chief engineer of China’s Ministry of Land and Resources as saying.
“Residential sewage, municipal wastewater, industrial effluents, and agricultural chemicals are dumped into rivers, which has inevitably contaminated the groundwater and threatened groundwater sources. Water pollution problems have become grim,” Zhang said.
According to the Economic Information Daily, pollutants from industrial, agricultural, and residential sources are the major causes of water pollution in China. Industrial pollution is caused by directly discharging untreated industrial effluents into nearby streams, lakes, rivers, or oceans.