From the Ground
by China Water Risk 7 November, 2013
We thought we would cover issues from the ground having just attended the Beijing Forum, an international forum of academics, scientists and experts. The forum supported by of the Chinese Ministry of Education and the Beijing municipal government, had multiple panels on the environment this year. The key message: more “institutional reform”. Debra Tan expands on whether this translates to more legislation & power to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and on “areas of confusion” in media and litigation that hamper the path to more enforcement. At the forum, China Water Risk talks about how water is shaping food & energy choices within the broader theme of “40 Years of Environmental Protection in China & the World”. Solutions for agriculture & energy are critical. Syngenta’s Dr. Sandhikar, tells us how to achieve big gains in water savings from small farms in India where there has been an explosion of small farmers and over-exploitation of groundwater. However, some solutions for energy whilst good for air, may be bad for water: WRI discusses why China’s latest scheme to cut air pollution by replacing coal with synthetically derived gas could exacerbate water stress. Another area of concern raised at the forum is groundwater over-exploitation. Since we have already discussed this extensively in previous editions, we turn to subsidence, an unavoidable side-effect of excessive groundwater depletion. We review the extent of subsidence in China and what sinking lands mean for agriculture and infrastructure. Can this be solved? With 50 cities in China at risk of subsidence, what about real estate risk? Cracks in the ground are already showing up in Shanghai and other cities; will this only rise with greater urbanisation? It is clear that cleaning up pollution and putting in measures to mitigate subsidence risk will only raise the costs of doing business. All eyes are on the 3rd plenary session next week where the amendments to the environmental protection law, which propose to remove caps on pollution penalties and introduce daily fines, are expected to pass. With this in mind, Xin and Brown from SynTao expand on why we should take a closer look at the mishandling of toxic waste discharged by companies as they could well turn into toxic assets.
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