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300 million suffer dirty water supply Source: South China Morning Post Publication date: 2000-08-07

The water supply to as many as 300 million people fails the Government's health standard, a report said yesterday. A Ministry of Water Resources survey of more than 700 rivers also found 46 per cent were polluted, meaning they fell within grade four and five of the Government's five-grade water quality rating system, the China Economic Times said.

Under the system, grade one water is clean and suitable for consumption but grade five is considered undrinkable. According to the survey, 10 per cent of the rivers were rated grade five. More than 90 per cent of cities faced serious water pollution problems.

Ministry experts said industrial pollution was the main source of contamination. They estimated factories produced about 60 billion tonnes of waste and sewage each year and 80 per cent of that was discharged into rivers without treatment.

Although drinking water classified as grade four may not lead to immediate health problems, there have been many reports of residents who live near these rivers suffering long-term illness.

The central Government has repeatedly vowed to close factories and build water treatment facilities, but local government officials complain that lost production would destabilise the economy and they have demanded subsidies to clean up the environment.

For example, Guangdong has long said it would improve water treatment along the Dongjiang where it draws water to supply Hong Kong. But local officials are reluctant to act, claiming they do not benefit from the water sales and cannot finance the treatment plants on their own.

It has been reported that about 400 of the mainland's 668 cities are short of water and 100 face serious problems.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 07, 2000


AUG 21, 2000

China faces water shortage in 10 years

With water resources dwindling and demand rising as industrialisation gathers pace, the problem is getting acute, made worse by polluted rivers

BEIJING -- China will suffer from severe water shortage 10 years from now, a prospect which will intensify the countless skirmishes already happening in the country between villages and townships over ownership of water resources, reports said.

Some of such clashes had already claimed lives, such as a recent one in Hunan province where hundreds of villagers were involved in fighting over control of disputed water catchment areas.

""In terms of total volume, China's water resources rank sixth in the world,'' the People's Daily quoted Dr Zhang Jiatuan, a senior engineer of the State Defence General Office as saying.

""However, there is only 2,300 cubic metres of water for every Chinese, which is only a quarter of the world's per capita level,'' he said.

""The problem is more acute in the northern region, which shares only 19 per cent of the country's water resources, and whose per capita level is capped at one-third of what is available in the south,'' he added.

""To compound the problem, China's agriculture sector continues to waste water by its diffuse irrigation methods, including peasants at the lower reaches of the Yellow River, though they experience periodical hardships due to damming at the upper reaches,'' he said.

On the industrial front, China is also wasting lot of water every year.

The picture became more dismal after the Water Resources Ministry recently concluded that half of the 700 biggest and medium-sized rivers in China are severely polluted and the water of 70 of these rivers are now no longer usable.

According to another People's Daily report, subterranean water in northern China has been excessively consumed in recent years, resulting in the drying up of 56 spots.

While water resources are dwindling in China, its need is rising ever higher as industrialisation picks up pace. In 2010, there will be a shortage of 331.8 billion cubic metres of water.

""Water is critical to the development of the backward western region,'' said Mr Zhang Yue, vice-president of State Water Resources Economic Research Committee.

""Now, the only possible solution to alleviate the water problem in the drought-prone western region is to channel water from southern China,'' he added.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 20, 2000.

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