The PRC faces a water crisis. Starting at the top, the Himalayan glaciers are melting. Winter 2008 levels on the Yangtze were the lowest since record keeping began in 1866, and the Yellow's outflow is a shocking 10 percent of what it was 40 years ago.In addition, 90 percent of cities have polluted groundwater and in Beijing, the water coming from taps is undrinkable. The government diverted a huge amount of water from agricultural regions to assure Beijing of having an adequate supply for the Olympics, threatening the livelihoods of millions in the process, according to the BBC. The Beijing Olympics presented a Potemkin Village of epic proportions, at least regarding water.
Water consumption has already soared and will naturally continue to rise with population growth, urbanization, and industrial expansion. If glaciers can no longer provide sufficient water, rice output will plummet beyond possibility of domestic replacement. The Communist Party's hallowed goal of grain self-sufficiency will be lost and the domestic and international impact of food dependence will make oil pale by comparison.
Groundwater use, falling water tables, and subsidence occur in every eastern city, costing $75 billion to date, with the promise of far greater costs to come. In rural areas, the Ministry of Health labels over 40 percent of drinking water unsafe. One-quarter of all surface water is unusable, and three-fifths can no longer support fish. Sanitation is a crucial health indicator, and despite growing wealth, China has badly trailed the global average on this count. Grand plans for hydropower are doomed in the face of declining water levels, accentuating the need for coal, which in turn worsens air quality.
Interestingly, Sen Obama thinks America should emulate Red China by throwing up infrastructure improvements fast and furiously. Yes, it's true that a totalitarian state can muster its resources rapidly. However, the Senator from Illinois might also consider the terrible tragedy caused by the PRC's poor building practices which caused the deaths of thousands of children when their schools collapsed in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake — a long rumored scandal which was recently admitted as true by Beijing authorities [China Admits Building Flaws in Quake, By Edward Wong, New York Times, September 4, 2008].
BEIJING – A Chinese government committee said Thursday that a rush to build schools during the country’s recent economic boom might have led to shoddy construction that resulted in the deaths of thousands of students during a devastating earthquake in May.This tragic and avoidable loss of life makes annoying building codes look like a great idea.