China Releases Water Action Plan

By 2020, China plans to make 70% of its water resources in seven river basins clean enough to drink, according to a long-awaited water pollution action plan released by the State Council in April. While effective immediately, local and provincial governments will craft their own strategies in the coming months.

To reduce some of the country’s water quality problems, on May 14, China’s State Council also announced plans to cut fertilizer and pesticide use in pilot project zones. Currently, agricultural operations in China use 59.12 million metric tons of fertilizer annually, an amount that has been steadily growing. The goal is to achieve only 1% growth in fertilizer use between now and 2019 with 0% growth after 2020. China also aims to reduce pesticide use slightly by 2020. Between 2012 and 2014, China used about 311,000 metric tons of pesticides, a 9.2% growth compared to the amount used between 2009 and 2011. By 2020, China hopes to use only about 300,000 metric tons.

Fertilizer reductions on cornfields will be piloted in Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Shandong, Anhui, and Henan provinces; on apple orchards in Shanxi, Henan, Gansu, Shandong, and Liaoning provinces; and for other vegetables in Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong, Henan, Guangdong, Hainan, Hubei, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

The water-pollution action plan focuses primarily on conservation and protection of groundwater and prioritizes cleanup of the most polluted water bodies and coastal waters. It also requires 10 industries to identify specific water-pollution reduction efforts.

China’s efforts to curb water pollution could generate 5.7 trillion yuan ($920 billion) in spending and investment over the next 5 to 7 years, according to the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning, an institute under the Ministry of Environmental Protection. This ministry also released a catalog of preferred water-conservation and pollution-remediation technologies.

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