During his visit to China, Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Akylbek Zhaparov announced that the country is ready to export drinking water from its glaciers. Zhaparov made this statement during a meeting with Wang Da, the chairman of Qingdao Laoshan Mineral Water Company, highlighting the untapped potential of Kyrgyzstan’s water resources.
“We stand at the source of glaciers and are ready to export clear drinking water to China, European, and Asian countries,” said Zhaparov, emphasizing the benefits that Kyrgyzstan could gain from the expertise of companies like Laoshan. As a major Chinese manufacturer and distributor of beverages, Laoshan produces bottled water, barrelled water, and soft drinks.
Wang Da expressed interest in the possibility of importing water from Kyrgyzstan to China and then on to European markets. Following the discussions, both parties agreed to schedule further meetings to explore this idea and develop an action plan.
China has long been grappling with a water shortage crisis. According to Earth.org, the country is home to 20% of the global population but has access to only 6% of the world’s freshwater resources. Factors such as climate change and industrial pollution further exacerbate the water supply situation in China. Chinese government data reveals that between 2000 and 2015, the nation’s total water usage increased by 9%, and wastewater emissions grew by over 50%. To address these challenges, Beijing has launched various projects to improve water distribution across regions and has implemented water-saving measures like the “sponge city” project, which aims to collect and recycle rainwater.
Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, boasts a significant number of glaciers and eternal snows covering approximately 6,680 square kilometers, as reported by the United Nations Development Program. Glaciers make up about 3.3% of the country’s total land area and are estimated to hold around 600 billion cubic meters of water. However, Kyrgyzstan often experiences water shortages due to inadequate water distribution systems and a lack of infrastructure like technical water wells and drinking water reservoirs. Just last month, several neighborhoods in the capital city of Bishkek faced water rationing due to low water levels at the Orto-Alysh water well, which supplies the city. Authorities attributed the problem to a cooler-than-usual spring, which delayed the thawing of glaciers and caused extremely low water levels.
The potential export of drinking water from Kyrgyzstan to China and other countries could be a mutually beneficial solution. China, with its water shortage crisis, could alleviate its supply issues by importing water from Kyrgyzstan’s abundant glaciers. Kyrgyzstan, in turn, could generate revenue and leverage its water resources to foster economic growth. As discussions continue between Kyrgyzstan and Qingdao Laoshan Mineral Water Company, the parties will work on developing an action plan to explore the feasibility and logistics of exporting drinking water.
In a world where water scarcity is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, the collaboration between countries and the innovative utilization of water resources can play a vital role in ensuring sustainable development and the availability of drinking water for all.