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article imageChina's water problems have opened market for global sewage firms

By Karen Graham     Jul 12, 2017 in Environment
Beijing - China, the world's most populous country also has water treatment and sewage problems on a massive scale. The country has battled fertilizer run-off, heavy metals and untreated sewage in its water supplies for years, and now, China wants to reverse this.
A recent study has discovered that 50 percent more untreated wastewater than was previously thought, is being used to irrigate crops and is finding its way into our drinking water, affecting one-eighth of the world's population.
Previous estimates of contaminated agricultural land worldwide were thought to be, at most, 20 million hectares (49.4 million acres). However, that figure has been upped to 29.3 million hectares (72.4 million acres). Most of the affected croplands are in China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, and Iran.
In China, a survey published in 2014 showed that nearly two-thirds of its groundwater and a third or more of its surface water was not fit to drink or use on crops, while in 2015, China's vice-minister of Agriculture Zhang Taolin, said that agriculture had overtaken industry as the biggest non-point polluter in the country.
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
China's plan to reverse its massive water problem
The Beijing government has pledged to lay 126,000 kilometers (78,293 miles) of new sewage pipes by 2020, a monumental task, and by the way, Reuters estimates the number of sewer pipes would encircle the globe three times. The plan will also raise urban wastewater treatment by 50 million cubic meters a day, equal to about 20,000 Olympic swimming pools.
With China estimated to spend 3 trillion yuan ($441 billion) over the next five years on its annual environmental budget, it has opened the door to sewage specialists around the globe, wanting to grab a share of the market. Two firms, Israel's Emefcy, RWL Water - controlled by Ron Lauder from Estee Lauder, and France's Veolia, have already expressed interest.
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."
Shanghai  like many other Chinese cities  depends on surface water that is heavily polluted  such as...
Shanghai, like many other Chinese cities, depends on surface water that is heavily polluted, such as the Huangpu River shown here whose water comes through Suzhou Creek from the heavily polluted Lake Tai.
Jakub Halan (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Mr. Yong Wong Jin, the chief executive for Israel's Emefcy in China said, "The market is massive." Emefcy estimates the potential in Beijing and its surrounding provinces at over US$1,0 billion. Actually, foreign players have been in China for awhile, working on water projects. But it was only recently that China began to focus on this latest issue. And the fact that local authorities are still struggling to fund their plans has opened the door to the private sector.
General manager Xue Xiaohu at Jiangsu Greenway, which sells water treatment technology to the textiles industry, points out that the stricter environmental regulations have had the added effect of drawing in specialized companies of all sizes, even though the big state-owned companies still dominate.
More about sewage firms, China, Contaminated water, Environment, Health
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