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China to Spend US$5Bln Yuan to Improve Rural Drinking Water

China plans to spend more than 40 billion yuan (about US$5 billion) to improve the quality of water and alleviate shortages of drinking water in its vast countryside over the next five years.

Half the money will come from the central government and while local governments will contribute the other half. It is hoped that the investment will help provide 100 million rural residents with better water supplies, said Jiang Kaipeng, deputy director of the Rural Water Conservancy Department with the Ministry of Water Resources.

More than 300 million people in the countryside, or about a third of the total rural population, do not have adequate, clean drinking water, government statistics show.

Hundreds of thousands of people in China are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic or sodium sulfate.

This year alone, China will invest 8 billion yuan (about US$1 billion) to tackle drinking water shortages and safety concerns for 20 million people living in the country's rural areas, an official with the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) has said.

The SDRC, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Health are working on a safe drinking water project for the 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010) for national economic and social development.

The measures include providing clean water, environmental protection and improved water-conservation education to rural residents, the official said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2006)

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