2013-04. 28,000 Rivers Disappeared in China: What Happened?

posted Apr 30, 2013, 12:03 PM by Alan Gould
 Angel Hsu and William Miao, The Atlantic. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5. Excerpt: ...As recently as 20 years ago, there were an estimated 50,000 rivers in China, .... But now ... more than 28,000 of these rivers are missing. ...Official explanations from the Chinese government have attributed the significant reduction to statistical discrepancies, water and soil loss, and climate change. ...Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute and a leading water expert agrees: "Climate change is a real threat to the world's resources, and we already see evidence of impacts on water availability, quality, and extreme events. But the water challenges in China are far greater than just climate change," he said. Pinning the rivers' disappearance on climate change is politically palatable right now, and the human origin of global warming is not controversial in China. But in an unusual twist, blaming climate change allows officials to absolve themselves of the poor management, governance, lack of groundwater extraction controls, and rapid development that are more likely culprits for the river's disappearances. "As China's population and economy have rapidly grown, the country has experienced serious degradation of its water resources, including massive overuse and contamination," Gleick said. "The 'disappearance' of major rivers and streams is far more likely to be directly connected to uncontrolled and unsustainable extraction of water for industry and agriculture, though climate change may play a greater role in the future." .... http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/04/what-happened-to-chinas-rivers/275365