The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 17, 2008

Chinese Water

The Financial Times's Global Events platform organised a conference yesterday on Investing in Commodity Currencies. In view of the current butchery in the financial markets, their choice of the venue was somewhat prescient: Butchers' Hall, home of one of the City of London's oldest livery companies. I'll post a synopsis of the various presentations later, but for now want to mention a tidbit about China that the Head of Research of Standard Chartered Bank shared with us.

As is well known, China's environmental record is somewhat less than stellar. One of the potential pitfalls it faces in its tremendous rush to grow and enrich its people is social unrest occasioned by, among other things, a severe scarcity of water, which only looks to worsen in the coming years. The Chinese government (or its Environmental ministry) has a six-level metric of water quality, which looks something like this:

Level 1: Potable water, fit for human use and consumption.
Level 2: Agricultural-use water
Level 3: Industrial-use water
Level 4: Fit for human recreation, but do not touch. (I guess this means you can row a boat on this but make bloody sure you don't fall in.)
Level 5: Unusable water

And, strangely enough,

Level 5+: Any water that remains which is not Level 5.

At this point, of course, the main hall of the Butchers was rocking with laughter.

The scary thing, though, is that 55% of China's water falls in categories 4 to 5+.

55%! No wonder they have all those appalling plans to divert the Himalayan rivers to the rest of the country. The lower riparian countries in South and South-East Asia are in for a hellish time if the Chinese go ahead with their madness.


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