Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government will spend 6.4 billion Yuan each year to give drinking water to over 32 million rural villagers by 2010. Wang Shucheng, minister for water resources announced the move during a conference at the beginning of January. But experts maintain that it is necessary to eliminate industrial waste and protect the environment first, even if that means slowing economic development.
According to official data, in 2004 over 320 million rural farmers had no access to clean drinking water -34% of the agricultural population- 125 million of whom live in the western provinces, 138 million in the centre and 69.9 million in the east. Of these, 190 million drink water containing toxic substances above security standards. According to the States Administration for the protection of the environment, out of a total of 234 villages tested in 2006 only 8.81% had sources of clean drinking water. Wang admitted that “hundreds of thousands of Chinese suffer from various illnesses because they consume (unclean) water” and has assured his commitment to seeing that these projects are carried out.
The project is part of a five year plan, begun in 2006, to bring drinking water to over 160 million farmers. Official sources point out that the government spent over 22 billion Yuan between 2001 and 2005 to bring drinking water to 67 million rural villagers, but has only reached a third of its target in tackling polluted rivers. 90% of rivers and lakes are polluted, above all in the north with over 70% of river water from the Yellow, Huai and Hai rivers “too polluted for human use”.
Experts observe that the government’s commitment has not prevented an increase in the pollution of many water ways, even the important ones, which are polluted primarily by industrial waste. An example is the Zhangweixin (Shandong) river, which between July 2004 and February 2005 is estimated to have carried over 447 million cubic meters of polluted water into the Bohai Sea. Over 80% of the rivers pollution is caused by the industrial waste released by the factories in Henan, Shanxi and Hebei, who continue to pollute despite the authorities widespread commitment. It is calculated that in 2006 rivers and waterways flushed over 1.58 billion tonnes of waste into the Bohai Sea. All experts’ concord that in order to eliminate the problem a rigid control of industrial waste produced by the factories on all surrounding waterways is necessary. Moreover they fear that effective economic resources to fight the growing problem of pollution is blocked by a poor coordination between offices, conflicts of interest and a lack of general interest towards the problem in local government.
Tao Jianhua, an export in environmental engineering from the University of Tianjin maintains that, the local authorities as well as the local population are still not conscious that pollution can compromise the sea. Local government – he observes- give far too much importance to economic growth and far too little to the sea and do not understand that a “coordinated development” is necessary if we are to preserve natural resources. (PB)