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More Water for Rural Residents
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Clean drinking water is expected to reach every rural family by the end of next year, water resources officials promised Monday.

More than 15.6 million rural residents are expected to have access to clean drinking water by the end of this year, officials said at a national conference on drinking water for the rural population, which opened yesterday in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province.

Almost 26 million rural people in China, especially in northern areas such as Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia and Gansu, still lack clean drinking water, statistics show.

"We have made breakthroughs in opening up the rural residents' access to drinking water," Vice Minister of Water Resources Zhai Haohui said.

"The rural water supply project will guarantee the safety of drinking water for rural residents after 2004, when we expect to solve the water shortages in the countryside."

By the end of this year, construction of more than 700,000 new water processing facilities will be completed, including more than 100,000 major water supply systems in rural areas, ministry statistics said.

Drinking water has been a challenge to obtain for approximately 50.2 million rural Chinese, especially in northern and western regions, according to statistics for early 2000 from the Ministry of Water Resources.

In some areas, local farmers have to go several kilometers away to get drinking water, and water shortages have led to poverty and low farming efficiency, Zhai said.

In 2000, China launched a project with a total investment of 17 billion yuan (US$2.1 billion) to build water resources projects, including digging wells and desalinating alkali-salt water for millions of farmers.

"We are expecting to reach the goal of providing enough clean drinking water for 50.2 million rural residents one year ahead of schedule in 2004," according to Zhao Leshi, an official with the ministry.

"We had solved the drinking water problem for over 24 million people in rural areas by the end of 2002."

(Xinhua News Agency November 4, 2003)

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