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Huaihe River Water Still Headed Downhill

The Huaihe River Valley Water Environment Surveillance Center reported last week that water quality further deteriorated in November in the Huaihe, China's most polluted river. Only 57.8 percent of the water was considered safe for domestic, industrial or agricultural use.

The figure is about 15.5 percentage points lower than October's.

The center conducted tests at 45 places along the river as it passes through Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hubei provinces. The assessment involves 20 indices, including ammonia and nitrogen content and the permanganate index, an international method used to monitor water pollution by oxidizing organic and inorganic materials.

Water quality is divided into several grades, with grade one being the least polluted and the lower sublevel of grade five unfit for any use.

In November, none of the Huaihe's water was rated grade one; 35.5 percent made grade two or three, suitable for drinking and domestic use; 17.8 percent was considered suitable for use in industry at grade four; 11.1 percent fell into the upper sublevel of grade five, which is approved for some agricultural uses; leaving 35.6 percent unusable.

Experts at the surveillance center attribute the degeneration in part to the scarcity of rainfall in the Huaihe River basin since October, with rainfall halving from last year. The dry weather has kept fresh water from diluting the pollutants that the towns and cities continue to discharge into the river.

The Huaihe is one of China's major rivers, running through the eastern part of the country between the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.

In 1994, China launched a 60 billion yuan (US$7.2 billion) cleanup campaign on the river, which has been heavily polluted since the 1980s, but the Huaihe Water, Environment and Resources Protection Administration reports that it remains a toxic wasteland.

In late October, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan provinces signed a pledge to the State Environmental Protection Administration to cut pollution along the river. From next year, they will regulate the discharge of pollutants; build more sewage treatment, collection and distribution facilities; and curb agricultural pollution, they vowed.

The Huaihe supplies water to about 165 million people in Henan, Hubei, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces.

(China.org.cn, Xinhua News Agency December 20, 2004)

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