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CHINA: Study finds entire country suffering significant soil and water losses (27/01/09)

A three-year study has found that all of China’s 646 counties are suffering from significant soil and water losses, equivalent to a total combined area of 3.75M.km2.

The research, carried out jointly by the Ministry of Water Resources, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, found that 82.04% of the worst-affected counties were within the Yangtze and Yellow river valleys. It also warned that a further 2M.km2 was in extremely serious condition and needed urgent intervention.

There has been considerable research into aspects of these issues. Studies of particularly vulnerable areas, such as China’s Loess Plateau, have been undertaken over a period of years – the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a paper documenting losses in this area back in 2002.

IHE Delft provided training programmes for the Ministry of Water Resources around the same time, aiming to develop an integrated multi-disciplinary programme on soil and water conservation and ecosystem restoration.

It is recognised that China faces the worst soil erosion problems in the world, affecting 37% of its entire territory. The basic factors affecting the erosion are rainfall, wind, topography and soil properties. Agricultural and economic activities, and over-exploitation of water resources for irrigation are known to exacerbate the effects.

The current project is the most extensive study to date of China’s water, soil and biological assets. The conclusions urge the country to use every measure possible to check soil and water losses within 15 to 20 years.
Lis Stedman