One in four Chinese has no access to safe drinking water, a senior official said yesterday, but pledged that it will be available to almost all by 2015.
The government has drawn up a plan to provide 32 million people with safe water every year from 2006 to 2015, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said.
"According to the plan, China will have provided safe drinking water to 195 million people from 2001 to 2009.
"This means the country will have achieved the goal of the UN Millennium Declaration, which is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015, six years earlier," Chen told the 8th Meeting of the United Nations Secretary-General Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB) & Asian Regional Dialogue.
In 2000, there were about 379 million people in rural areas who had no access to safe drinking water. That number was cut by 67 million in 2005.
As of today, some 312 million people still lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation, according to Li Daixin, director-general of the department of irrigation, drainage and rural water supply under the Ministry of Water Resources.
The reasons, he said, were varied. In northwest China, it is because of mountainous terrain and dry climate. In central and eastern China, people have trouble getting clean drinking water because the local waters have been badly polluted.
"In many rural areas, industrial and domestic sewage is directly discharged into rivers and domestic garbage is not properly collected, transferred or disposed. Problems such as these cause water pollution and consequently the short supply of safe drinking water," said Li.
But "China has done quite well in improving drinking water and sanitation coverage," said K.E. Seetharam, a water and sanitation specialist from the Asian Development Bank.
Research conducted by his organization shows that China's water supply coverage in rural areas increased from 59 percent in 1990 to 68 percent in 2002. The projection for 2015 is 98 percent.
According to a report released jointly by representatives of key organizations in Asia and the UNSGAB, the majority of the 1 billion people who lack access to safe drinking water live in Asia; and most of the 2.6 billion people who are without access to basic sanitation are also resident in the continent.
(China Daily June 1, 2007)