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China Launches Institution for Water Supply Improvement in Rural Areas

A national association for water supply and water-efficiency technology in rural areas was launched on Tuesday by the Ministry of Water Resources. The move was China's latest initiative to enhance agricultural production and improve farmers' livelihood.

Zhai Haohui, the new association's head, said the institution would intensify its research on water supply and water efficiency in rural areas. It would conduct research and development on water-saving measures and technologies for ensuring drinking water safety in such areas and help commercialize the new technologies.

The association will also help related authorities provide training courses on the technologies concerned, according to Zhai.

Water resources minister Chen Lei said at the launching ceremony that since 2000 China had pumped 61.6 billion yuan (US$9.03 billion) into water supply improvements in rural areas. This included 31 billion yuan from the central government and 30.6 billion yuan from local governments and farmers.

In the past nine years, 160 million rural people were provided with access to clean and safe drinking water.

Because of conservation efforts, nearly 14 billion cubic meters of water had been saved annually since the 1990s; farmland with a total area of 23.33 million hectares was covered by water-efficient irrigation systems, according to Chen.

Under the condition of no increases in water usage, more than 13 billion kg were added to the annual grain production capacity nationwide.

However, Chen pointed out, there were still more than 200 million rural residents with no access to safe drinking water. Water that was brackish or high in fluorin and arsenic content threatened their health.

The rural areas had suffered a water shortage of about 30 billion cubic meters annually, he added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2008)

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