Drinking water contaminated with hazardous substances in some rural areas has aroused major concerns among Chinese lawmakers, especially those from the western region where "the shortage of drinking water supply remains grave."
It is a fundamental right of the people to have safe water supply, said Yuan Hanmin, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
However, he acknowledged that residents in some rural areas for long have only access to drinking water polluted with more fluorin, arsenic, industrial pollutants and other substances beyond state standards.
"It is crucial to provide peasant farmers with 'care-free water' as early as possible," said Yuan, also vice-president of the academy of agricultural and forestry sciences in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, southwestern China.
The central and local governments have appropriated huge funds to build water supply projects in rural areas over the past 25 years since the early 1980s. In Ningxia, these projects have improved water supply to 947,000 local farmers, according to NPC deputy Tao Yuan, also director of the regional finance department of Ningxia.
Since China set a five-year target to tackle the water supply problem in the countryside in the year 2000, the government has invested more than 18 billion yuan (some 2.2 billion US dollars) in the construction of more than 800,000 water supply projects for57 million rural residents across the country.
However, according to an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, more than 300 million rural residents still do not have access to or afford safe drinking water, and 190 million others have to drink water with excessive hazardous substances, while 34 percent of the total rural population has to drink water which the state standards do not permit.
To deal with the problem, the State Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Health have jointly worked out a plan to reduce the number of rural residents who do not access to clean, safe water by one third by 2010, and guarantee clean, safe water to the 300 million rural residents by 2020.
(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2005)