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Water at the heart of China’s large infrastructure projects


Water is one of the major challenges facing China today. Although 20% of the world’s population lives there, China has only 7% of the planet’s freshwater resources. Demographic growth, exponential urbanisation and the dry climate in the north of the country are its major water-related challenges. Now that there are signs of slowing economic growth, the country plans to launch a policy of large projects, many of which will be linked to better water management.

In May, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission drafted a list of more than 1,000 large projects that will require both public and private financing, totaling some US$320 billion. A significant number of the planned infrastructure projects, – 172 of them – are linked to water. This announcement is consistent with other investments in water announced by China. The Vice Minister of Water Resources has stated that his country approved US$79 billion in investments in 2014 and that the figure will be higher in 2015. The enormous size of the figures is proportional to the size of the projects themselves, as exemplified by the diversion of the Tao River (110 km of canals), which will permit delivery of water to Gansu Province in the north of the country.


While many projects are designed to provide water to the country’s northern regions, where water is most scarce, others have been conceived for the 15 megalopolises with more than 10 million inhabitants, where the population continues to grow continuously. And, of course, the capital has not been forgotten. Beijing will be the sole beneficiary of three projects, each of which has a cost of more than US$800 million. In the meantime, work continues or is about to begin on other projects. SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT will support the Beijing Drainage Group by supplying equipment for and supervising installation of the Huai Fang underground wastewater recycling plant. This plant will have a capacity of 600,000 m3/day and, beginning in mid-2016, will treat the wastewater of more than 3 million people.