Drying Out: Climate Change and Economic Growth Drive Water Scarcity in the Third Pole

It provides water for 10 of Asia’s largest rivers and for 1.4 billion people downstream—almost 20 percent of the world’s population.
It hosts the Ruo’er’gai wetlands—the “kidneys of China”—which filter more than 30 percent of the water that flows into the Yellow River, the cradle of the most successful ancient Chinese civilizations.
It used to flow down from the hills, sourcing its water from multiple springs.
Actions in this Plateau will have significant impacts on the not only the Third Pole, but also the entire country and its neighbors.
The river that is now only a small trickling stream Melting Glaciers and Drying Grasslands The Tibetan-Qinghai Plateau has warmed at a rate of approximately two times the global average.
In addition to a warming climate, increasing populations of people, livestock, and rodents are threatening the region’s grasslands.
One Belt: New Roads and Struggling Rivers China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, which will invest $1 trillion in infrastructure development across 60 countries, will not only fuel domestic economic growth but will spur growth in its neighbors.
The initiative’s plans for new dams, coal plants, roadways, railroads, and mines—all water-intense projects—do not take the already significant environmental and water stress in the region into account.
Given coal’s water demands, investing in coal contradicts many of China’s domestic policies on water use.
China’s “Three red lines” policy, which was created to protect water supplies, is part of a movement towards incorporating water into economic and social development.

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