By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
October 23, 2007
The International Rice Research Institute and the China Agricultural University, pioneers in the development of aerobic rice growth, say that China will increase production of rice grown without the traditional water flooded field from 1% in China currently to 30%.
China says the aerobic rice is needed by the world’s largest rice producer and consumer due to a lack of water. China is rapidly depleting water supplies though industrial uses, consumer use and pollution. Global warming is also blamed for a reduction in water resources.
Severe water shortages are turning more and more Chinese farmland into desert.
Wang Huaqi, an aerobic rice breeder at the China Agricultural University, said the university has been working on aerobic rice that is grown like the upland crops of wheat and corn for many years.
Aerobic rice requires 50 percent to 70 percent less water than the “flooded field” or traditional rice.
As Asian nations like Japan have become more developed, demand for rice has decreased as eating habits have changed. But in China, demand for rice is at an all time high.
China also imports rice from sources such as Vietnam, which recently announced that it will increase rice exports.Contributing to China’s water woes is an ever worsening environmental disaster.
According to New York Times reporters Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley, nearly 500 million people in China lack access to safe drinking water. China’s population is 1.3 billion. As the middle class grows and people become more affluent, water use per person is skyrocketing.
“It is a very awkward situation for the country because our greatest achievement is also our biggest burden,” says Wang Jinnan, one of China’s leading environmental researchers.
“There is pressure for change, but many people refuse to accept that we need a new approach so soon,” said Mr. Wang.
The New York Times reporters concluded that China’s leadership and authoritarian system are addicted to fast growth. Delivering prosperity placates the public, provides spoils for well-connected officials and forestalls demands for political change. A major slowdown could incite social unrest, alienate business interests and threaten the party’s rule. Therefore, installing new environmental restrictions is extremely difficult.
But China’s leaders assert that they are serious about new environmentally smart measures.
Vowing to overhaul the growth-first philosophy of the Deng Xiaoping era, and embrace a new model that allows for steady growth while protecting the environment., Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made 48 references to “environment,” “pollution” or “environmental protection” during his annual “State of the State” address.
At the recent Communist Party Congress, President Hu Jintao also embraced environmental issues — at least in his rhetoric.
Elizabeth C. Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relation and author of a book on China’s environment, “The River Runs Black,” says there is no way of knowing how China will solve its difficult pollution problems.
The lack of transparency and China’s failure to take more stringent measures are worrying environmental activists. Economy said there appears to be a reluctance to do anything that would hinder the country’s fast-paced economic growth.
“I think it is a striking indication of just how deeply capitalism, or perhaps individualism, has permeated China that some people would put profit before national pride,” Economy said.
China is trying hard to ensure that it is seen as a modern, technologically advanced and open country during next year’s Olympic Games. But water and air pollution are difficult to hide and are already of concern to the coaches of several Olympic participating nations.
Editor’s Note: China has been plagued by unusual algae growths that spoil lakes and kill fish. Often, run-off from agriculture or industry causes unusual mutations. The article below is an example of a recent news report from China.
Algae-polluted lake in E. China poses
danger to rare fish
Xinhua State Controlled China News
October 14, 2007
Blue-green algae has caused water pollution in Chaohu Lake, China’s fifth largest fresh water lake, in east China’s Anhui Province, where the rare whitebait production is on the decline.
The output of the whitebait, a small sprat and famous for its fresh and tender meat, has dropped by 500 tons, or 20 percent lower in this year’s fishing season compared with the previous one.
“The delicate whitebait, which requires a high-standard of water quality, is disappearing mainly because of the rampant blue-green algae in the lake,” said Chen Jianqun, head of the Bureau of Fisheries of Chaohu City.
From June to August 2007, the nutrient runoffs and other pollutants caused blue-green algaes to bloom in China’s Taihu Lake, Chaohu Lake and the Dianchi Lake, endangering water supply in nearby cities and posing great threat to the aquatic life in the lakes.
“I have never seen a year like this one when the output of the whitebait is so low,” said Liu Yejun, a fisherman whose family has been living on fishing in the Chaohu lake for years.
The stinky algae-rich water has also given rise to the parasite, which further endangered the whitebait, according to Chen.
Experts with the Anhui Agricultural University have warned that the sharp drop of whitebait production is a warning signal of the lake’s eco-system.
China to spend 14 billion dollars on polluted lake clean-up