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article imageChina hails improved water quality, but some rivers more polluted

By Karen Graham     Jan 7, 2019 in Environment
Beijing - China’s surface water quality improved in 2018, according to the country’s environment ministry on Monday. Beijing has extended its campaign to tackle groundwater pollution, particularly industrial wastewater flowing into streams and rivers.
With 1.4 billion people, China is home to over 21 percent of the world's population, yet it only has seven percent of the world's freshwater supplies. Additionally, the North China Plain is home to about 42 percent of China's population but only has eight percent of the country's water resources.
With water being scarce, there is the added problem of pollution. In a report issued in 2014 by China's land and resources ministry, after testing it was found that among 4,778 testing spots in 203 cities, 44 percent had “relatively poor” underground water quality; while the groundwater in another 15.7 percent tested as “very poor."
In 2017, Beijing estimated the government would spend 3 trillion yuan ($441 billion) over the next five years on its annual environmental budget, including opening the door to sewage specialists around the globe, in an effort to clean up the country's contaminated water.
Shanghai authorities are planning a clean-up of nearly 500 small and medium-sized waterways in and a...
Shanghai authorities are planning a clean-up of nearly 500 small and medium-sized waterways in and around the city, part of a nationwide anti-pollution drive
Johannes EISELE, AFP
Mr. Tong Weidong, the vice-chairman of China's legal work commission, was quoted by the Straits Times as saying: "Right now, the problem of wastewater from agriculture and the countryside is very serious and wastewater treatment work is a weak link."
Progress has been made
The water quality in most of China's major waterways improved greatly in 2018, including the Yellow, Huai, Yangtze and Pearl rivers. However, rivers in northeastern China, like the Liao and Songhua were found to be even more polluted than they were in 2017, according to Reuters.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) tested 1,940 samples from across China last year, with 71 percent of the samples considered grade III or better, meaning they were suitable for drinking and fishing. This was up 3.1 percent over 2017. The number of samples designated “below grade V” (water that cannot be used in either agriculture or industry), fell 1.6 percentage points to 6.7 percent in 2018.
As has been the problem in the past, phosphorus and ammonium nitrate, which mainly come from industrial wastewater, pesticides, and organic fertilizers were identified as the major pollutants.
Seriously polluted along its entire length  in 2007 the Ying River’s water quality was rated as be...
Seriously polluted along its entire length, in 2007 the Ying River’s water quality was rated as below Grade 5 by the Chinese Environmental Protection Agency.
Northeastern China water pollution
Without a doubt, the major driver behind polluted water in China has been shared by rapid industrial growth and agricultural growth. In 2015, Digital Journal reported that agriculture had taken over first place as the biggest cause of pollution of China's freshwater supplies.
Northeastern China has for years been the country’s traditional industrial base, due to its abundant coal reserves, focusing mainly on equipment manufacturing. However, in recent years there has been stagnation of the region's heavy-industry-based economy.
The rural population in the northeastern part of the country is centered in the southern area where summers are very hot. This is good for agriculture, with abundant yields of maize, soybeans, millet, wheat, and barley. This also means a huge increase in the amount of fertilizers being used, contributing to run off of chemicals into the rivers.
By 2015, chemical fertilizer use had increased 5.2 percent a year, with growers using 805 pounds per 2.5 acres of vegetables. The World Health Organization (WHO) showed that in the U.S., growers used 289 pounds for the same amount of land, and in Spain, growers used 274 pounds.
More about China, ground water, Pollution, industrial wastewater, Environment
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