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Greenpeace Warns that China's Coal Expansion will Lead to a Water Crisis

As part of plans to overhaul its electricity generation network, China will build 16 large coal fired power plants in its arid northern and western provinces, including Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi and Ningxia. The new power plants will have a capacity of more than 600 GW and be supplied by local coal mines which will have their production output vastly increased. They will supply 2.2 billion tonnes of coal to the power stations by 2015, 56% of the 3.9 billion tonne forecast to be produced by the whole country.

Greenpeace is very concerned.

Coal mining and coal fired power plants are extremely water intensive, and Greenpeace predict that coal activities in the region will consume at least 9.98 billion cubic meters of water by 2015. They worry that the massive expansion planned will severely drain local water supplies, causing a water crisis.

The environment group said in a statement that “this grand strategy is doomed to meet an unavoidable bottleneck: water scarcity. In fact, water resources per capita and per unit area in these areas are only one-tenth of the national average. If China insists on going ahead with the plan, the already arid western China will suffer a series of water crises.”

Heavy coal mining in Inner Mongolia has already led to desertification of the once pristine grasslands. A recent survey by the Inner Mongolia Grassland Survey and Design Institute found that the total area of land suffering from desertification went up from 2.10 million hectares in the 1980’s to 3.98 million hectares in 2000.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com


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