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Plan to Improve Rural Sanitation

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday it will lead a clean up of China's rural areas.

Although progress has been made there is still a big disparity between the city and the countryside, particularly regarding drinking water quality and sanitation, MOH spokesman Mao Qun'an said.

Rural areas need improving to meet the increasing demands of the population, Mao said, citing a survey on drinking water quality and sanitation that began in August 2006 and concluded in November last year.

Of the 7,000 randomly selected samples of drinking water from more than 65,000 rural households in 650 counties, more than 40 percent were found to substandard.

Microorganisms were the top concern among the failed samples, according to the joint survey by the MOH and the China Loving-motherland Sanitation Movement Committee.

Bacteria contamination, especially various groups of coliform, was the second highest concern.

Up to 75 percent of rural people rely on underground water supplies and nearly 55 percent on a collective water supply, the survey said.

It also found more than 82 percent of respondents drink boiled water, which "plays an important role in curbing water-borne intestinal infections", Mao said.

By the end of 2005, more than 31 million rural residents did not have access to safe water, MOH statistics showed.

It will be an expensive and time-consuming operation to bring standards up to par, Mao said.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in September the government will spend 40.3 billion yuan (US$5.6 billion) by 2010 to provide clean drinking water for some 160 million rural residents. He also vowed to keep increasing spending.

Environmental sanitation also needs a boost, the survey said, as only 18 percent of restrooms were found to be indoors.

Just 23 percent of them met hygiene standards.

The survey also found nearly 67 percent of villages had no refuse collectors. Some 300 million tons of garbage a year was being left to rot.

The government will spend 336 million yuan this year to improve public sanitation facilities, Mao said.

(China Daily February 19, 2008)

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