Published: Monday 31 August 1998

River pollution is leading to< Increased pollution levels are the reason behind China facing a terrible water shortage. According to a Chinese scientist, if the trend continues, it could become a full blown crisis by mid-21st century. Chen Mengxiong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said many people believe that water supply in the country is inexhaustible and do not try to find ways to improve water management.

He said that a fifth of China's rivers are polluted to varying extent whereas five per cent are seriously polluted. About 70 per cent of the water is used for irrigation which comprises half of the country's total water consumption. A major portion of water has been wasted in China because of a low utilisation rate. Chen said about 70 per cent of China's fresh water may not be available for direct use by the beginning of the next century because of pollution from waste water discharge. At present, about 300 cities are suffering from water shortages and approximately 20 million hectares of arable land is hit by dry spells each year.

Chen said ground subsidence and seawater are becoming problems because of the over-use of groundwater in some coastal cities like Shanghai and Tianjin. In northwestern China, arable land has become increasingly desertified and sandstorms have become more frequent because of improper use of water resources.

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