Beijing plans USD636 bln public public/private water investment
China's Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei has announced plans for the government to channel USD636 billion of investment from both public and private sources in various water-related projects through to 2020.
Speaking at the Ministerial Conference of the World Water Forum in Paris this week Chen said a package of favorable policies will be offered to encourage the private sector to tap into the country's multi-billion-dollar water conservancy infrastructure construction sector, with some of the projects open to foreign investors.
"Investment will be scaled up in the coming decade and a water financing mechanism with a public budget and revenue as a major channel shall be set up," said Chen.
"China encourages enterprises and individuals to invest in water conservancy by means of sole proprietorship, equity joint ventures and joint-stock co-operative ventures," he said.
Last month China’s State Council said that, to improve water conservation and efficiency, water suppliers will be allowed to seek a "rational" pricing mechanism to reflect resource scarcity on islands and in coastal cities short of fresh water.
China’s water resources are in a perilous state. According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s 2010 annual report, about 40 percent of the country’s major rivers are so polluted that the water can only be used for industrial purposes or landscaping. About 16 percent of the total is unfit for agricultural irrigation.
The report also revealed that an investigation of the underground water of 182 cities across the country showed more than 57 percent of the tested underground water samples are classified as "bad" or "extremely bad" in quality. Waters off the booming cities of Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou were rated as severely polluted, with only stretches around the resort island of Hainan and parts of the northern coast given a totally clean bill of health.
To address water safety, Chen said the Chinese government has decided to speed up the construction of rural water supply projects so that they are completed by 2015. Meanwhile, it will implement a strict water resources management system and intensify the protection of rivers and lakes.
The investments will be used to treat heavily polluted rivers and lakes and to enhance the recovery of water ecosystems in ecologically fragile areas, while attaching great importance to the effects of construction on the environment.
Chen made the commitments after 80 ministers from participating countries at the World Water Forum made a common declaration. The declaration emphasizes the acceleration of the implementation of obligations linked to human welfare, water and sanitation, the guarantee of well-being and health and focusing on the most vulnerable. The ministers agreed that a global approach toward water, energy and food security will guarantee sustainable economic growth and job creation.
According to UN figures, an estimated 884 million people worldwide do not have access to safe water. Almost 1.5 million children die every year from water-borne diseases. Population growth, increasing urbanization, chemical pollution and invasive species are the main factors contributing to the deterioration of water quality. The consequences for the environment and for mankind are considerable, according to the UN.