China Turns to Salt Water to Ease Drought
BEIJING -- Drought-stricken China, where hundreds of millions of people are without regular access to drinking water, is turning to desalinated sea water to help end the crisis, the government said on Tuesday.
Apart from widespread drought, factories have ignored pollution hazards and dumped toxic industrial waste into rivers and lakes in China, home to one-fifth of the world's population but only 7 percent of its water resources.
"China is expected to desalinate 800,000 to 1 million cubic metres of sea water per day and use 55 billion cubic metres annually by 2010," the State Development and Reform Commission said, detailing China's ninth five-year plan.
China desalinated 120,000 cubic metres of sea water per day last year.
It was not immediately clear how China, which is also desperately short of fuel, would power the energy-hungry desalination plants.
More than 600 medium- and large-sized cities in China were now suffering "serious water shortages", Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng said this month.
China is investing billions in a project to transfer water from its lush south to the arid north.
The so-called western route of the project could involve harnessing rivers cascading from the Tibetan highlands in the Himalayas to quench the thirst of Qinghai province and other poor western areas.
But Wang said the proposed system of tunnels stretching 300 km (190 miles), and costing more than the $25 billion Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric mega-project, was unnecessary, unscientific and not feasible.