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China's Huge Investment in Rural Water Supplies
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To improve the quality of drinking water in China's rural areas, the central government has earmarked 4 billion yuan (US$500 million), a senior official said yesterday.

The current lack of water treatment facilities results in more than 300 million farmers, 37.5 percent of China's rural population, struggling to access safe drinking water, Gao Juncai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission's Department of Rural Economy, told the fifth World Water Congress in Beijing yesterday.

The central government's funding is expected to help half of those affected change their water supplies by the end of 2010, Gao said.

The need for action was evidenced by frequent health alarms in recent times. Last year in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China at least 150 outbreaks of typhoid, dysentery and diarrhoea were reported. More than 80 percent of these were identified as being a result of people drinking polluted water, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Behind the country's rapid economic growth and development there are concerns about deterioration of the environment. .

"Industrial discharge of polluted water is estimated to have increased by 30 percent this year over last year," said Xu Shufan of the State Administration of Environmental Protection.

Zhang Yue, an official from Ministry of Construction, said he was deeply concerned about the problem of processing waste water. "Currently, almost half of the waste water has not been effectively recycled despite a lot of economic input in the sector," he said.

In the coming five years the nation will inject 330 billion yuan (US$41.2 billion) into waste water processing to ensure 70 percent of it in urban areas is recycled, Zhang said.

Besides the pollution, China also faces great pressure with water supplies. It uses 7 percent of global fresh water resources to support 21 percent of the world's population.

With rapid industrialization and urbanization China required to utilize all possible resources to attain sustainable water use, said Vice-Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing.

The determination to achieve sustainability will mean opportunities for investors. "China's water market value will increase by at least 15 percent by 2010," said Zhou Weifang, president of GE (China) Water & Process Technologies.

According to estimates from the Ministry of Construction at least 1 trillion yuan (US$125 billion) is needed in the coming five years to recycle waste water, upgrade supply facilities, improve protection of the water environment and other projects in related fields.

(China Daily September 12, 2006)


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