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China’s bottled water industry to exploit Tibetan plateau

Tibet wants to bottle up much more of the region’s water resources, despite shrinking glaciers and the impact that exploitation of precious resources would have on neighbouring countries.

This week the Tibet Autonomous Region’s government released a 10-year plan to encourage the massive expansion of the bottled water industry in the ecologically fragile region.

The target is to build 5 million cubic metres of bottled water production capacity by 2020. Since Tibet produced 153,000 cubic metres of water in 2014, according to Xinhua – this is indeed a huge jump.

Water in Tibet is abundant and so much cheaper than in other parts of China. Water bottled upstream among snow-capped peaks is also perceived as pure, commanding a premium. This has led to a huge influx of companies hoping to cash in on the region’s water resources. Though it only makes up a very small proportion of China’s annual bottled water production, such premium water is seen as the new point of growth for the country’s booming bottled water industry.

But tapping glaciers will come at a huge cost to Tibet’s fragile environment, warned China Water Risk’s recent report “Bottled Water in China – Boom or Bust?”. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau – known as Asia’s water tower – is the source of the continent’s major rivers that provide a lifeline for China and other parts of Asia.

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