From: Associated Press
Published March 23, 2005 12:00 AM

China Faces Severe Water Shortages, Mounting Rollution Problems, Report Says

SHANGHAI — China's already severe water shortages are worsening due to heavy pollution of lakes and aquifers and urban development projects with a big thirst for water, such as lawns and fountains, state media reported.


More than 100 cities have inadequate water supplies, with more than half "seriously threatened," the official Xinhua News Agency cited Qiu Baoxing, a vice minister of construction, as saying.


"The uneven distribution of the limited resource and serious pollution further deteriorate the situation," Qiu was quoted as saying.


In Beijing, for example, each resident has access to only 300 cubic meters (10,593 cubic feet) of water a year, compared with the world average of 1,000 cubic meters (35,310 cubic feet), Xinhua said in a separate report.


Recent urban greenery projects have only worsened the problem due to widespread planting of lawns and construction of fountains that consume large amounts of water, he noted.


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Meanwhile, experts warned that more than 300 million rural Chinese lack clean drinking water since most waterways are fouled by industrial effluent, untreated sewage and runoff of agricultural chemicals from fields.


A survey in January found that only 47 percent of water in major rivers is drinkable, while half of all lakes are heavily polluted. And 35 percent of ground water is undrinkable due to pollution, Xinhua reported.


"Hundreds of thousands Chinese are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt," it cited Wang Shucheng, minister of Water Resources, as saying.


Wang said the government planned to boost spending on water treatment. He called for better enforcement of often-ignored environmental protection standards.


A five-year, 18 billion yuan (US$2.1 billion; euro1.6 billion) program to improve the drinking water supply in the countryside, home to three-quarters of China's 1.3 billion people, has already ensured safe water for 57 million people, Xinhua reported.


Source: Associated Press


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