Unsafe drinking water in rural areas topped last year's environmental concerns, according to a report from a non-governmental organization based in Beijing.
About 320 million people, most of them farmers, still have no access to safe water, according to the recently released report themed "China's Environment in 2006: Changes and Struggles."
The report, published by the Social Sciences Academic Press and the Friends of Nature, an NGO based in Beijing, said farmers in northern areas suffer from water shortages, while in eastern areas water quality is not up to acceptable standards.
Government statistics show that 96 percent of villages have no sewage and wastewater treatment systems, while 89 percent handle garbage without proper sanitation treatment.
The report has highlighted polluting factories as the major contributor to the deteriorating environment in rural areas.
80-year old farmer Zheng Guolan and her grandson enjoy clean drinking water at home in the Luzhuang Village of Sheqi County in central China's Henan Province, on November 9, 2006.
Lack of monitoring and investment in green technologies are also blamed for the poor state of the environment in the report.
But Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environment Affairs, said that apart from technology improvements, uncovering the companies which cause pollution should be the priority.
"This is not a matter for technology nor investment," he said. "It is about how to expose these polluters and get the public involved in the monitoring process."
Covering four major topics of society, ecology, water, and forests the report is based on the opinions of independent experts including researchers, NGO volunteers, and journalists.
"Views from the public serve as a complementary angle to what the government has done and remind us of what needs improving," said Yang Dongping, deputy director of the Friends of Nature and a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
The English version of the report was published by the Brill Academic Press, based in the Netherlands.
(China Daily March 13, 2007)