Freshwater under threat : North East Asia

United Nations Environment Programme (2008)

As part of an UNEPs global initiative in vulnerability assessment of freshwater resources under changing climate, this report summarizes results from in-depth vulnerability assessment of freshwater resources in the Northeast Asia, including a general introduction of the sub-region and the main factors of freshwater resources, including all countries of the sub-region, and an in-depth synthesis of vulnerability assessment of freshwater resources based on the results from the five selected river basin assessment case studies. The five basins are Changjiang River Basin, Huanghe River Basin and Songliao Basin in China, and Orkhon River Basin and Tuul River Basin in Mongolia In North East Asia, most river basins are located in the continental climate zone where precipitation is low (arid and semi-arid zone). Climate change causes the changes in temporal distribution of precipitation is a fundamental factor contributing to increased vulnerability of the freshwater resources. The report reveals that reducing trends of precipitation and runoff were observed, and the speed of change is accelerating, and water is becoming a more and more scarce resources, and some rivers are even dried out partially. Agricultural irrigation is a sector not only with largest water consumption, but also with largest water waste. Due to the influence of water quantity and quality, there is a huge proportion of population in Northeast Asia without access to improved drinking water supply (IDWS). Along with the shrink of lakes and wetlands, the habitats of vegetation and animals are gradually withdrawing, which results in biodiversity loss in the subregion. Statistically, many endemic and endangered species like fish, amphibian, waterfowl, and aquatic mammal are threatened with extinction. The report further concludes that the water quality was deteriorated in Northeast Asia in general. Water pollution puts the situation of water scarcity from bad to worse, severely affects agricultural, industrial and domestic water supply, and does harm to human health and aquatic biodiversity. Conclusions and findings are focused on practical options and solutions towards effectively manage the water resources and to cope with the variety stresses relating to water resource base, water resources development and use, ecological health, and management capacity.

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