10 Apr, 2020

Map: Environmental Emergency in China

by Food&Migration

The colour map drawn by Laura Canali for Limesonline is dedicated to the environmental emergency in China, one of the biggest unsolved issues of our time that was suddenly pushed aside by the coronavirus outbreak. But by no means it can be said to be fixed.  

The enormous ecological pressure on Beijing’s territory reveals in fact the imbalances of Chinese economic growth and jeopardizes the internal social stability. 

The scale of China’s industrial development is unprecedented. The Asian giant went through its first ‘great smog’ more than seven years ago, when for several days the pollution exceeded by 40 times the maximum tolerance threshold set by the World Health Organization.  

China burns almost 45 percent of the coal consumed in the world and since 1990 the CO2 it emits every year has gone from 2 to 9 billion tons, almost a third of the global total and about double of the US’. 

Water is the other major emergency. China is home to around 20 percent of the world’s population, but it has only 7 percent of its freshwater reserves. As 90 percent of water is employed in agriculture and industry, it is not surprising that two thirds of the approximately 660 Chinese cities (including the capital) suffer from severe shortages. 

The problem is that in addition to being scarce, Chinese water is also polluted. A 2014 survey found that in over 60 large cities the water quality ranges from “bad to very bad”, and over 25 percent of the major Chinese rivers are deemed “unsuitable for human contact”. 

Desertification is a consequence. According to Beijing’s Ministry of Agriculture, about 1.6 million square kilometres of Chinese land are subject to drying up, with a direct impact on 400 million people and growing food supply problems. 

Land grabbing, the hoarding of fertile lands especially in Africa and Latin America, also origins from here.  

Link to the original map, in Italian. Courtesy of Limesonline.