Indicators of water scarcity in Northern parts of China

China’s economic prowess has in the past been fueled by agriculture more than any other sector. In the earlier years agriculture was mainly driven by small subsistence farming since the nation’s industrial sector was largely underdeveloped (Lohmar and Gale 11). Between 1950 and 1980 the country’s population rapidly grew by approximately a half a billion people but the country’s capacity to feed the people was still largely intact (Lohmar and Gale 11). This was attributed to the fact that most of the population still relied on plant-based diets and the mobilization of resources to the production of food grains ensured the increased demand was satisfied (Lohmar and Gale 11). The central place that agriculture played at the time was also evident with its choice as an economic reform front characterized by the establishment of a household responsibility system (Khan, Hanjra and Mu 350). With the encouragement of international trade China’s agricultural products were not only restricted to the domestic market but also formed a core component of its exports (Lohmar and Gale 12). Urbanization and further population increase however have generated stresses that were not experience in the early days.

One of the effects of such urbanization and population growth has been stressing the country’s capacity to satisfy both internal and external demand for food. Such has lead to an increasing shortage of water in important food producing regions (Lohmar and Hansen 2). In particular the northern parts of the country have been the worst affected since they control lesser amounts of water resources than the southern parts (Jiang 3191). The region however is deemed to be “the political, economic and cultural center” as well as the agricultural bedrock for the country (Xia 197). For instance, as at the year 2000, the North China Plain (NCP) accounted for 34.8 percent of the nation’s population with the regions GDP being estimated at 31,300 billion Yuan – 32.3 percent of the entire nation’s GDP (Xia 197). In respect to Agriculture, NCP is also noted to account for approximately a quarter of the entire nation’s grain production with wheat, and corn being the main grain crops grown in the region (Changming and Jingjie 265). The water source for the region is three main rivers that transverse the region with the annual precipitation mainly during the short summer monsoon supplementing the rivers’ waters (Changming and Jingjie 265). The modern dilemma for the region however has been in the increased demand for the water that has outstripped the supply (Xia 197).

One of the indicators of the increasing scarcity of water in the region has been the per capita renewable water resource. With an increasing population in the region, such has been argued to have plummeted below the critical levels advanced to indicate a case of severe water scarcity – 1000 m3 (Cai 14).Cai (14) notes that the main basin in Northern China only provides 520 m3 per capita renewable water, a figure that is significantly lower than the threshold levels – 1000 m3 – for severe water scarcity. The magnitude of the problem is brought about by the fact that availability of water resources in the region continues to be a major player in ensuring sustainable development of the region (Xia 197). This is because the region has attracted a large number of water intensive activities that have fueled its economic growth (Jiang 3192). The decline in water resources – that could result into adverse economic outcomes in the region – has been advanced to arise from a combination of natural and human influenced factors.

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