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Serious Water Pollution in the Northwest

A consultancy program carried out by the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) shows that 79.1 percent of the population in northwest China live on heavily or moderately polluted water, Ren Jizhou, an academician of CAE, told Guangming Daily recently.


Water pollution is the main factor causing the increasingly serious ecological and environmental pollution in northwest China, according to Ren. He said that in the industrial and mining areas, the current situation is indeed “terrible and shocking.”


The program report classifies the region’s water pollution into three levels -- heavily polluted, moderately polluted and not yet obviously polluted.


Heavily polluted areas include the mainstreams of the Yellow River, Weihe River and Shule River, and some sections of the Yili River where 21 cities and prefectures are located. Water quality in these areas stands at Grade V or lower, which cannot meet the requirements of agricultural irrigation. Water in some sections has even turned black and stinking. The Weihe River valley has become one of the most heavily polluted areas in the country.


Though accounting for only 13 percent of the total acreage of northwest China, the drainage areas of these heavily polluted rivers are major industrial and mining areas with a densely concentrated population, which accounts for 55.2 percent of the region’s total.


Main pollutants in these river sections are COD (organic pollutant), BOD (biological pollutant), and ammonia nitrogen. Excessive heavy metal contents have also been found in the mainstream of the Yellow River running through Gansu Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.


In the moderately polluted areas, which cover 14 cities, including Urumqi of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Baiyin of Gansu Province and Tongchuan of Shaanxi Province, water quality of major rivers stands at Grade IV. The polluted drainage areas account for 27.2 percent of the region’s total area, and the pollution-affected population account for 23.9 percent of the region’s total. The water quality can merely meet the requirements of industrial and agricultural production, but is not qualified as drinking water. These areas would soon become heavily polluted if sewage discharging cannot be put under strict control.


Not yet obviously polluted areas cover 27 cities, accounting for 59.8 percent of the total acreage of the region. However, most of them are in desert areas with the population accounting for only 20.9 percent of the region’s total.


(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, January 8, 2004)

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