The decline in the country's water supply has harmed the environment and negatively influenced both economic development and social stability, a senior official said yesterday.
"The water shortage costs China 120 billion yuan (US$16.2 billion) every year," Jin Yinlong, a researcher at the Center for Disease of Control and Prevention, said.
"Water pollution accounted for 59 percent of the 600,000 complaints registered about the environment last year."
Jin was speaking yesterday at the third National Forum on Environment and Health in Beijing. The theme of the gathering was Drinking Water Security and Human Health.
China is one of the 13 countries around the world facing serious water shortages.
In an attempt to address a series of environmental challenges, of which the dwindling water supply is one, the Ministry of Health and 17 other ministry-level bodies yesterday jointly launched the first National Environmental Health Action Plan (NEHAP).
The First Ministerial Regional Forum on Environment and Health in Southeast and East Asian Countries, which took place in Thailand in August, proposed that the participants draw up such action plans.
"The NEHAP is the first document to clarify the integrated action principles on contingency planning, preparedness and responses to environmental health emergencies," Chen Xiaohong, the vice-minister for health, said.
The plan lays out the national goals for managing and researching environmental and health issues in two phases - from this year until 2010 and from 2010 to 2015. It also calls for a health monitoring system and response mechanism for environmental emergencies.
All About Water pollution, Water shortage(China Daily November 22, 2007)