An Environmental Assessment of China's South-North Water Transfer Project: How Engineering-based Solutions Cannot Solve China's Water Crisis

Publication Date

April 2019


John Bonin, Yu-ting Huang


College of East Asian Studies


English (United States)


My central research question concerns the environmental impacts of China’s South-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP), and my findings challenge the viability of engineering-based solutions to secure China’s water supply. In recent years, China has faced an acute scarcity of water supplies, which threatens economic growth, political stability, and social welfare. In response, the government launched the SNWTP, a grand scheme that aims to transfer water from the southern Yangtze and its tributaries to dry provinces in the north. Based on the environmental, economic, and social costs of the project, I find that it is not justified. Instead, I argue that the state should focus on demand-management efforts such as limiting water use and curbing pollution. This thesis is interdisciplinary in focus, and seeks to offer a more holistic evaluation of the project based not only on economics, but also on Chinese political history and social practice. In conclusion, it offers a different way to approach water management in China.

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