Choke Point: China is an on-the-ground report that displays in text, photographs, and interactive graphics the powerful evidence of a potentially ruinous confrontation between growth, water, and energy that is already visible across China; a confrontation that is virtually certain to grow more dire over the next decade.
Nadya Ivanova: China is a place in incredible transition, which automatically makes it very interesting for a young journalist like me, because we’re looking for places that are developing and evolving right in front of our eyes.
Keith Schnieder: You find in China these challenging problems at every turn, mostly because of how many people are there, how tightly the choke points are between their resource use and their resource supply — the confrontations between energy and water, the confrontations between water and food production, the pollution.
Nadya Ivanova: Most of the focus is on water pollution as a health issue; we wanted to look at water pollution as a water supply issue. About 40 percent of the Hai River is unsuitable for any use, and about 20 percent of the Yellow River is also unsuitable for any use. Even though, in theory, this water shouldn’t be used, it’s actually used to produce China’s food. One of the reasons this water is still being used by farmers is because, in many areas of northern China, which suffer from extreme scarcity, there is no other water that can be used. This is a big problem for China: it might crash into their food security issue, into their political security, into their stability as a nation — and that goes, as well, for energy production.
Keith Schnieder: Increases in sustainable alternative energy sources: it’s not gonna make a difference in percentage of their total energy reserves that are provided by coal, because they’re growing so fast, and they do have the coal, and they have big coal companies [that are] state-owned, so they’re going to develop the coal. On the one hand, they’re looking to the United States in developing their shale gas reserves. On the other hand, they’re developing so slowly that, shale gas development, it’s going to make no difference in their energy supply. From an environmental point of view, can a nation that big [and] operating at such a scale maintain its sustainability? Don’t know; I don’t know.
Video production by Allison Voglesong. Interview footage shot by Petersen Productions. Photos by J. Carl Ganter and Aaron Jaffe of Circle of Blue, as well as by Adam Dean. Photos by Adam Dean, as well as by J. Carl Ganter and Keith Schneider of Circle of Blue. Google Fusion Table created by Samuel Kosinski, a Circle of Blue data intern, with assistance from Circle of Blue’s Aubrey Ann Parker and Jordan B. Bates.
Choke Point: China is an on-going Circle of Blue series, produced in partnership with the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum. Through frontline reporting, the project finds new and powerful evidence of a ruinous confrontation between water, food, and energy that is visible across China and is virtually certain to grow more dire over the next decade. Choke Point: China is part of Global Choke Point, which is uncovering new data and strategic narratives about water, food, and energy in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
is an editorial intern for Circle of Blue based out of Traverse City, Michigan. She holds a BA in International Relations from Michigan State University’s James Madison College. Her interests include water pricing, environmental economics and policy, and conflict mediation.