Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
The Thirsty Dragon: Water Pressure in Southern China

Courtesy of The New York Times, details of a recently released report examining the water supply situation in southern China and the Pearl River Delta, where competing political interests of Guangzhou Province, Hong Kong, and Macau battle with growing industrial powers for a limited supply of water.  As the article notes:

“…Drinking water has rarely been a concern in Hong Kong where the supply has historically been plentiful and affordable. But a series of droughts in China, including some earlier this year, has raised concerns that Hong Kong’s water supply might not be as secure as first thought.

Civic Exchange, a Hong Kong-based public policy research group, has released a report entitled “Liquid Assets,” highlighting water security and management in the Pearl River Basin and Hong Kong.

The report warns that South China’s supply of water — which comes from Dongjiang, a major tributary of the Pearl River — is threatened by climate change and pollution. Additionally, there is growing competition from industries in the surrounding Guangdong wetlands.

Mike Kilburn, Civic Exchange’s environmental program manager, says that “while China protects classic farmlands, the story of Guangdong is relentless development.”

“Ecologically, the delta is not in good shape,” Mr. Kilburn said.

The authors of the report said at a news conference that Hong Kong’s affordable water prices were a significant part of the problem, as low prices encouraged consumption.

The International Water Association reports that Hong Kong’s water tariffs were among the lowest in the world while its per capita consumption of water is among the highest.

According to Civic Exchange’s representatives, the most immediate way to manage the use of water resources is to raise the price, but they acknowledged that political issues might make raising rates difficult. They also believe that Hong Kong and Macau should be brought in on the discussions relating water management in South China.

Currently Hong Kong’s role is limited to “water supplies management ” — negotiating long-term fixed rates for water — rather than “total water management” which would look beyond the pricing issue at things like conservation, adaptation measures and preservation of South China’s wetlands.

“Hong Kong does not have a water policy,” Christine Loh, a former Hong Kong legislator and the founder of Civic Exchange, said. “What we have is a Water Department that looks at things like piping, cleaning and negotiating water prices with Guangdong, but this is a supply led attitude.”

Ms. Loh said Hong Kong needed a demand-oriented water policy and total water management system that looked at broader factors to secure the long-term water supply. The factors include raising tariffs, increasing conservation measures, generating awareness campaigns and planning for alternative sources like desalination plants.”

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 at 7:49 am and is filed under China.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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