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Water Pollution Worsening: SEPA

China has failed in its efforts to check the degeneration of its water quality, a top environment official said at a seminar on Tuesday, World Water Day.

"China has taken many steps to control water contamination, but its speed across the country has not been arrested," said Liu Hongzhi, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration's (SEPA's) Department of Pollution Control.

More than 70 percent of the nation's rivers and lakes are polluted. China's third longest river, the Huaihe, is dirtier than at any time in its history, and 40 percent of the Yellow River, the country's second's longest, is useless, according to SEPA.

Moreover, over 300 million people in rural areas do not have adequate potable water. As a result, hundreds of thousands are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt, revealed Wang Shucheng, minister of Water Resources.

Data collected from 345 sections of 175 major rivers by the ministry in January show only 46.7 percent of the country's river water is drinkable. Some 35.0 percent of ground water was undrinkable owing to contamination.

Liu blamed the crisis on the improper policies and lax administration of the government.

"China failed to list water conservation in its social and economic plan in the past several years," said Liu. He did not elaborate.

The country has built approximately 86,000 reservoirs since 1949, which have overtapped more than 60,000 rivers.

Experts at the seminar called for increased education on the importance of drinking water safety. Academician Mao Zhi of the Chinese Academy of Sciences called activities leading to water pollution "contrived poisoning" that should be considered crimes.

China ranks 82nd in per capita water possession among 132 countries investigated by the World Bank. It has 2,300 cubic meters of water for each person, one-fourth the world's average.

(Xinhua News Agency March 23, 2005)

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