Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"360 Million Chinese Without Safe Drinking Water"

Further evidence that China's environmental crisis may be its biggest obstacle on the Long March to modernization and prosperity:

More than 360 million rural Chinese lack safe drinking water and cities are facing chronic shortages, raising serious health concerns, senior officials warned...

..."Hundreds of thousands of Chinese are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt," said Wang Shucheng, minister of water resources...

...A plan approved in principle Wednesday by the State Council or cabinet pledged to provide safe drinking water to 20 million people in rural areas by the end of 2006, Xinhua news agency reported.

The plan emphasized strict monitoring of usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticide and a ban on factory construction near water sources.

Part of the problem lies in China's unchecked economic growth, which has led to severe water pollution and imbalances in the ecosystem.

Data collected from 345 sections of 175 mainstream rivers by the ministry in January showed only about 47 percent of the water was drinkable, the China Daily reported.

A survey of water quality of 52 lakes across the country conducted at the same time showed water in half of them was heavily polluted and 35 percent of ground water was undrinkable due to pollution.

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