12/28/2005, 00.00
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90% of cities have polluted underground water

The waterbeds supply 70% of drinking water and 40% for agricultural irrigation. Official sources say the situation will get worse in the absence of radical intervention to make maximise resources.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Underground water, the main source of China's drinking water, is polluted in 90% of the country's cites, a consequence of rapid economic growth. Official sources have said it is necessary to make more efficient use of energy and other resources.

Underground waterbeds provide 70% of drinking water to 1.3 billion Chinese and 40% of water used to irrigate the fields. Most rivers are so polluted that water cannot even be used for irrigation. But in 90% of cities, waterbeds "have been polluted by organic and inorganic pollutants, and there are signs that the pollution is spreading," said a report of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

SEPA's deputy director, Zhang Lijung, described the situation as "serious". Among the leading causes of pollution are industrial and human waste, which are dumped into rivers without being recycled and seep into the ground. However grave human errors also have much to answer for, like the discharging of around 100 tonnes of benzene into the waters of the Songhua River by a factory of the China National Petroleum Corporation in Jilin in November. Then there was the spill of zinc waste in Beijiang River in December, from a state foundry in Shaoguan, Guangdong. Millions of people were left without water for days, unable even to wash.

"Water pollution causes direct economic losses of tens of billion of yuan, or billions of US dollars, not to mention countless indirect losses," added Zhang. Beijing's counter-strategy "in the next 25 years" will be decisive in limiting the deterioration in quality of water supplies.

Also today, Li Deshui, head of the National Office of Statistics, said it was necessary to monitor the energy consumption of every region and of the largest factories in relation to the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP). China is the world's second largest consumer of oil after the United States, but the average Chinese income is around one-thirtieth that in the USA. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every unit of GDP, China consumes four times the average amount of energy required in the seven most development states. With an economic growth rate of 9% per year, it is imperative that use of resources becomes more efficient; this has been put forward as a primary goal also in the five-year plan 2006 – 2010.

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