A man or woman can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. Knowing that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tibet will stay in China for some time and water is one of the most important reasons why.
The Yellow River and Yangtze start in Tibet serving more than a third of China’s population—more than 400 million people. It’s possible that Mao realized the importance of water from Tibet when he sent 40,000 PRC troops to reoccupy the former troublesome province/tributary that at the urging of the British Empire’s broke from China in 1913 and declared its independence as a theocracy ruled by a Dalai Lama known as a living god.
Tibet has an area of about 1.3 million square kilometers (about 5 million square miles) and it is estimated that there are less than 3 million people living in Tibet. China, on the other hand, serves more than 1.3 billion people, so who benefits the most from water that starts its journey in Tibet?
Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “At least 500 million people in Asia and 250 million people in China are at risk from declining glacial flows on the Tibetan Plateau.” – Circle of Blue Waternews
If Tibet’s water were in the hands of anyone else like a free Tibet that might favor other nations over China, China’s future would be dim at best and dire in a worst-case scenario. As it is, China is one of the earth’s driest areas and the challenge to supply more than 1.3 billion people with water is a daunting task. In fact, China is racing to beat a disaster, and the end of that race will be reached in a few decades.
Today, water and waste pollution is the single most serious issue facing China.
While replacing thousands of older, coal-burning power plants with cleaner technologies, building more hydroelectric dams, and constructing nuclear reactors, China is also adding desalinations plants to ease the growing water crises. In 2005, a desalination facility south of Shanghai started producing about 375,000 gallons of fresh water an hour, with a goal to build more plants and produce 250 million gallons of water per day by 2010. – Environmental News Network
In fact, to achieve this, China contracted with IDE Technologies in Kadima, Israel to build four new desalination units and the first went on line near Beijing in 2010. These plants are designed to provide desalinated seawater for a power plant’s steam boilers as well as drinking water for local residents.
Bloomberg reports, “Home to 20 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent of its fresh water, China has embraced desalination. The central government’s Special Plan for Seawater Utilization calls for producing 3 million tons (807 million gallons) a day of purified seawater by 2020—roughly quadruple the country’s current capacity. Of China’s 668 largest cities, at least 400 already suffer from water scarcity.”
And this isn’t all that China is doing to deal with its water woes. China is building an aqueduct—some of it running underground and it is known as the South-North Water Transfer Project—that may rival China’s Great Wall as a construction project that will cost twice as much as the Three Gorges Dam. The completed aqueduct will be slightly over 716 miles long.
China also plans to build 100 dams in Tibet—not only to generate electricity but to store much needed water for its more than 1.3 billion people. Both projects are controversial, but can China afford to do nothing?
Meanwhile, the United States with the 3rd largest population in the world is facing its own challenges with water. Business Insider reports, “Americans tend to take it for granted that when we open a tap, water will come out. … (but) Many states — 40 out of 50 according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office — have at least one region that’s expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years.”
In addition, India, with the 2nd largest population in the world, has an even larger challenge than China or the U.S. when it comes to water. The Water Project reports, “India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. To that end, global water scarcity is expected to become a leading cause of national political conflict in the future, and the prognosis for India is no different.”
Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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[…] does China need Tibet? Well, water of course, […]