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Sea Water to Be Used to Ease Shortages
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China, severely hit by water shortages, will turn to the ocean as it has announced recently it would utilize directly around 50 billion cubic meters of sea water each year by 2010.


Meanwhile, the country plans to use desalination to produce 800 million to one billion liters of fresh water per day by 2010. They altogether will cover about 20 percent of the demand gap in coastal areas.


To fill up 26 to 37 percent of its coastal region's huge demand gap, China has also set a target of using 100 billion cubic meters of sea water and of producing 2.5 to three million cubic meters of fresh water through desalination by 2020.


Many places in China, especially big coastal cities and the country's northern part, have failed to develop at full speed as affected by the water shortages bottleneck.


China's industry, for example, lost 200 billion yuan (US$24.7 billion) in output value annually from 2001 to 2005 due to water shortages, according to the statistics released by the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters late last year.


Nearly two thirds of the around 660 cities nationwide, mostly located in coastal areas, report water shortages. Ten of the Chinese provinces are commonly hit by severe water shortage with per capita water availability of less than 500 cubic meters.


Tianjin municipality and the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning and Shandong produce nearly one fourth of China's total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), yet suffer from grave water shortages with per capita water availability of 413 cubic meters.


China's per capita water availability stands at 2,200 cubic meters, which is about a quarter of the world average, according to China's Ministry of Water resources.


Severe water shortage has led to the over-tapping of groundwater in many parts of China, which in turn has caused serious problems like less drinking water for future generations and large areas of earth degradation, said He Bin, an engineer of Haihe River Water Resources Committee affiliated with the Ministry of Water Resources.


More than 60 percent of Tianjin's total area of about 11,920 square kilometers experiences earth reduction. The problem is becoming even more serious as groundwater recovers extremely slowly, He warned.


Experts believe, apart from building a water-saving society, China should turn to ocean as well as water-rich regions to ease water shortage and avoid geological disasters.


China has launched the south-to-north water diversion project to carry water from the Yangtze River, the country's longest, in its water-rich southern parts to its arid north. It plans to divert 44.8 billion cubic meters of water a year by 2050.


Despite the massive project, China still has a huge water demand gap to fill. Four places including Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei and Liaoning are expected to have a gap of 16.6 to 25.5 billion cubic meters by 2010.


Experts held that China's huge demand for water will offer enormous business opportunities for firms centering on desalination as it strives to alleviate water shortages.


Nevertheless, there is a great deal China has to do in the near future to better use sea water, said Prof. Wang Shichang, a desalination expert at the Tianjin-based Nankai University, adding that the country should invest heavily in improving desalination techniques and cutting its energy costs.


(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2006)

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