Global Talk: Dragon's Water Pollution -- Global Security Implications
For the "Green" Olympics, China promoted aggressive environmental policies and raised its national consciousness. Host cities demonstrated a marked improvement in beautification, public transportation systems and clean water supplies. These accomplishments are contrasted with the water pollution that dramatically impacts the environment, agricultural production, human health, and international security...
By David DeChant, Guest Columnist
For the "Green" Olympics, China promoted aggressive environmental policies and raised its national consciousness. Host cities demonstrated a marked improvement in beautification, public transportation systems and clean water supplies. These accomplishments are contrasted with the water pollution that dramatically impacts the environment, agricultural production, human health, and international security.
November is the third anniversary of the disastrous pollution in the Song Hua River running through Harbin City. The explosion at the petrochemical plant that released tons of toxins, threatening tens of millions with illnesses and water shortages, was worsened by a failed attempt at a cover-up. The concomitant panic was short lived; and some corrective action appears to be ongoing. One plan investing more than $1 billion to curb pollution hopes to see improvement by 2010.
Song Hua River.
The drinking water source pollution caused by algae in Tai Lake in Wu Xi that occurred in May 2007 was an accumulative effect of discharge over long periods. Another bloom was noticed by world class sailors during the Beijing Games that choked parts of the sailing course at Qingdao. The bright green algae left many boaters fearing for their health. This unexpected spotlight forced a cleanup by more than 10,000 people with boats, bulldozers and some military units.
Qing Dao - Fu Shan Bay.
These events portend the real story -- China's economic development, and highly decentralized political and legal systems have produced a life-threatening environmental crisis for hundreds of millions. Untreated industrial and municipal water are the main sources. Agricultural inputs along with human and animal wastes also contribute to cancers, birth defects, and spreading water borne diseases. Water resources will continue to play a most critical role in her incredible growth which has led to the current crisis: their overexploitation and pollution; and continues to present our industry with significant treatment opportunities.
Why should the world's governments and our industry be concerned? As one example, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 25% of the elements in the smog above Los Angeles can be traced to China; and nothing will stop the impact of her surpassing the USA as the top greenhouse-gas emitter within a decade. The developed economies' insatiable demand for cheap commodities is being supplied for the most part by the made-in-China label. Behind it are tens-of-millions of unskilled peasants without ready access to clean drinking water and who aren't reaping the direct benefits of this sustained growth. Foreign developers were always witting accomplices to the degradation of her environments, and they must immediately redress these manufacturing shortcomings of this unprecedented development.
They must collaborate to ensure a cleaner China and a greener and healthier planet in the 21st Century. Chinese and key world leaders must expand the range of international water security issues they address to include the Tibetan Plateau where nearly two billion people are dependent on its vast supply of freshwater. It's emerging at the center of increasingly tense diplomatic, political and cultural strife in the region.
Yamdrock Lake, located about 90 km southwest of Lhasa, is the largest freshwater lake in southern Tibet and, through man-made tunnels, feeds the Tsangpo River. Photo: Kate Lord, katelordphoto.com
Water is the critical lubricant of the global economy and must be dealt with immediacy and a new standard of protocols and accountability. As we've found out with the current global financial crisis, a global economy means an interdependent world economically. And growing consensus over climate change illustrates how interdependent we are environmentally. In both cases, we're realizing it takes a global coordinated effort to address problems -- real and potential. WWi
Author's Note: David DeChant is president of Vision Quest Intelligence LLC, a China consultancy with an office in Beijing which focuses on strategic marketing, competitive intelligence and business development opportunities for the water purification industry. Contact: +1 (410) 857-8495, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.VisionQuestIntelligence.com