Case study: management of water usage in MEDCs
Elan Valley Water Transfer Scheme
Much of Birmingham's tap water comes from over 100 km away. There are five dams in the Elan Valley which can supply Birmingham with 160 million litres of water a day.
The Craig Goch Dam, Elan Valley.
Reasons for choosing the Elan valley location
- Deep narrow valleys to hold the water in.
- Impermeable rock means the water wouldn't leak away.
- A high annual rainfall of 1830 mm.
- The area is higher than Birmingham, so the water can flow using gravity rather than pumps.
Pen-Y-Garreg reservoir, Elan Valley
Future expansion of the scheme raises problems. The local environment would be damaged. There would be increased traffic and noise from the construction of dams to provide extra capacity. The river flow downstream would be affected, along with the wildlife. Also more land would be affected when pipes are run across it.
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Social problems in China
The rapid transformation from a communist, planned economy to a capitalist, market economy has resulted in new problems for Chinese society.
In Mao’s communist China, every adult, as far as possible, was expected to work. In return for work, Mao guaranteed every person a share of what was produced. This ‘contract’ between state and people was known as the ‘iron rice bowl’.
Today the ‘iron-rice bowl’ has been ‘smashed’ and the guarantee of work has gone. In a competitive economy, those without skills or working in unprofitable industries, have found themselves out of work.
Unemployment is a major problem in China. As many as 10 per cent of people may be without work. The authorities claim the figure is only around 5 per cent (millions of migrant workers are not counted in the official total). The world recession hit China hard and there are fears its economy is beginning to slow.
Health care - NRCMCS
For years, the health care system in China was of poor quality. It was not comprehensive and was too expensive for the poor. The New Rural Co-operative Medical Care System (NRCMCS) was introduced in 2005 to make health care more affordable to the rural poor.
Under the NRCMCS, 40 per cent of the cost of an individual’s healthcare is paid for by the central government, 40 per cent by the provincial government and 20 per cent by the individual themselves.
The system is tiered, depending on location. If patients go to a small local clinic, the system will cover roughly 80 per cent of their bill. If the patient visits a county clinic, the percentage of the cost covered falls to about 60 per cent. If the patient requires a specialist in a modern city hospital, the plan would cover about 30 per cent of the bill.
The NRCMCS is an improvement on what went before. The government claim 95 per cent of people living in rural areas are now covered by health insurance. However, some people who have migrated to the cities find that they are no longer covered, leaving them open to the full cost of health treatment. In urban areas over 30 million migrants are covered by the Urban Employee Basic Health Insurance Scheme.
Healthy China 2020
Recently, the CPC declared the pursuit of , a program to provide universal health care access and treatment for all of China by the year 2020. This program is partly a response to growing health issues such as obesity.
The vast majority of children attend state run schools. Schooling is compulsory and pupils must attend for at least nine years. The education system faces many challenges.
There are huge differences in the quality of schooling between urban and rural schools. Local government is expected to provide funding for schools and often the poorest provinces have little money for investing in new facilities or teaching staff.
A disproportionate amount of state education spending is directed towards universities rather than the country’s primary and secondary schools. To bring in extra money, many schools have ‘gone into business’, eg with children assembling toys in school time to raise money for the school.
There is massive overcrowding in city schools with millions of children squeezed into tiny school buildings. Thousands of children of migrant workers have no right to a place in a local school.
Overall, levels of crime in China are low but with a rapidly changing economic system, the opportunities for people to commit crime have increased.
Large-scale organised crime is a major problem. Crimes such as illegal gambling, drug trafficking, gunrunning and the mass pirating of foreign goods have increased. To reduce organised crime the authorities have introduced a number of policies including a ‘strike hard’ campaign to take out gang leaders.
Corruption is an endemic problem throughout Chinese society. With so much new money available, individuals may be tempted to take bribes in return for favours. In recent years thousands of government officials have been found guilty of corrupt practices. In response, the Chinese authorities have extended the funding and powers of the government’s anti-corruption bodies. In 2015 China’s ex-security chief Zhou YongKang was jailed for life. He is the most senior politician to face corruption charges under Communist rule.
Generally, China has a worsening drugs problem. Many of the country’s addicts are young, poor and/or unemployed.
Chemical factory in Hefei, China
China has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities and according to Chinese government sources, about a fifth of the urban Chinese population breathe heavily polluted air. Many places are polluted with fumes from high-sulphur coal and leaded gasoline. Only a third of the 340 cities that are monitored meet China’s own pollution standards.
The rapidly growing economy and the greater urbanisation of the population (urban dwellers use two and a half times the energy of rural dwellers) has left the country chronically short of energy. With the CPC set on a policy of economic growth to maintain social order, the Chinese have little choice but to develop energy production as cheaply and as quickly as possible.
Coal burning power stations are relatively cheap and quick to build. 70 per cent of China’s energy comes from coal. However, the problem with burning coal is the huge environmental damage from C02 emissions both within China and globally.
Nuclear power is an expensive option and currently provides for only 4 per cent of China’s energy needs. Other sources of ‘green energy’ are being developed.
Three Gorges Dam
Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges Dam spanning the Yangtze is the world’s largest dam and electricity-generating plant. Construction was completed in 2006 at a cost of $30 billion.
The Chinese authorities hope that the dam does not become another huge environmental problem as the lake behind the dam traps millions of gallons of polluted water from dirty factories upstream.
To reduce pollution, the authorities plan to build 150 new waste water plants at a cost of $4.8 billion. However, with over 3,000 factories pouring out 1 billion tonnes of toxic waste, the lake has become increasingly polluted. Many of the rivers that feed the lake have also become polluted and the water is not safe for human use.
China has achieved some significant improvements to its environment during the recent years. According to the World Bank, it is one of a few countries in the world that has been rapidly increasing their forest cover and is managing to reduce air and water pollution. In 2013 two coal-burning power plants near Beijing were closed.
In 2008, as part of a $498 billion economic stimulus package (the largest in China's history), the government published plans to enhance sewage and rubbish treatment facilities and prevent water pollution, accelerate green belt and natural forest planting programs, and increase energy conservation initiatives and pollution control projects. In 2015, China announced plans to further cut emissions to more than half what they were in 2005 by 2030.