Print This Page Email This Page
Clean Water Needs More Urgent Than Ever

As Premier Wen Jiabao promised "clean water for the people," receiving thunderous applause from National People's Congress (NPC) deputies, one-third of China's rural population remained without access to safe drinking water, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.

On Saturday, Wen said in his work report that the government will concentrate on providing clean water for everyone.

To help address the problem, 2 billion yuan (US$242 million) has been earmarked this year, 200 million yuan (US$24 million) more than last year, an official at the Ministry of Water Resources said.

The fund will be used to seek out quality water sources and enforce water purification, said Zhao Leshi, a division chief of the ministry's rural water resource department.

In rural areas, the problems of contamination, seasonal shortages, inconvenience in fetching water and deficient water supplies all need to be solved.

"The foremost threat nowadays lies in bad water quality," said Zhao.

Rural drinking water is being polluted with industrial and agricultural pollutants, such as arsenic and fluorine, at levels that exceed national standards.

Legislators and international advisers are deeply concerned, and have suggested ideas for sustaining the development of limited water resources at the ongoing session of the NPC.

NPC deputies Sun Xiaoshan and Fu Qionghua from east China's Jiangxi Province both suggested that a rural drinking water fund be established by collecting small additional fees for urban water consumption.

If each metric ton of water cost 0.2 yuan (2.4 US cents) more in the province's cities, each person would pay only an estimated 1.8 yuan (22 US cents) more a month at most, Fu said in her proposal.

Given the growth rate of Jiangxi's gross domestic product, the small fees levied on water both for civic and industrial use would be translated into a fund of 1.8 billion yuan (US$218 million) between 2005 and 2020, said Fu, also an engineer at the local water science academy.

"It is international practice for central government to finance the bulk of the input to rural water resources. But China's subsidies in the agriculture industry are far less than they should be," she said.

"The fund will be a flexible supplement, whilst not burdening urban people too much."

Christoph Peisert, a German water conservation expert who has worked in China for 16 years, agreed with Fu's proposal, but said it must be shown that the fund is used exclusively for water protection activities.

"Basically, China's water problem is a problem of water management," said Peisert, who is engaged in a Sino-German watershed management project in Beijing.

He said the success of water resource management projects should not be judged by the size of financial investment alone, but on the basis of their ability to sustain economically sound systems of water protection.

He added that in future some carefully selected and well-trained farmers should be given support to become foresters, instead of making their money from low-wage water polluting activities or part-time construction work.

NPC deputy Yuan Hanmin from Gansu Province called for the creation of a water-saving society.

"The water supply system should be changed. Extra charges should be placed on additional water use," said Yuan.

He said that water supply facilities must be upgraded soon in rural places to improve efficiency.

Currently only 40 percent of the water from reservoirs arrives at its destination.

Unsafe drinking water is also becoming a threat to cities, where a huge sum is spent annually to purify polluted water.

In 2003, the country disposed of 64 billion tons of sewage. Only 28 percent of 46 key cities surveyed that year had access to good-quality drinking water.

In Jiaxing, a city in Zhejiang Province intersected by waterways, 70 percent of the water in its rivers was found to be of 'low quality,' according to its mayor Chen Derong.

Downstream of Suzhou and Hangzhou -- two big cities with fast economic development -- Jiaxing has suffered from extensive water pollution in the last two decades.

(China Daily March 11, 2005)

Related Stories

Print This Page Email This Page
'Tomorrow Plan' Helps Disabled Orphans
First Chinese Volunteers Head for South America
East China City Suspends Controversial Chemical Project Amid Pollution Fears
Second-hand Smoke a 'Killer at Large'
Private Capital Flows to Developing Countries Hit New Record in 2006
Survey: Most of China's Disabled Not Financially Independent

Product Directory
China Search
Country Search
Hot Buys