China will invest billions of yuan in a study on water pollution, a sign that the country is facing up to its chronic water problems.
Currently 90 percent of rivers running through cities are polluted, and more than 300 million rural residents have to drink unqualified water.
The study, the biggest of its kind in the country, will run for 15 years and will look into drinkable water security, environmental improvement of river basins and urban water pollution treatment.
"Scientific and technological breakthroughs in a key field such as water pollution control will help upgrade the scientific and technological level as a whole," said Zhou Shengxian, minister of State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). SEPA, the country's top environment watchdog, will lead the project.
The plan was released at the Environmental Science and Technology Conference held in Beijing on Friday and Saturday.
"Realization of the target of a 10 percent reduction of pollution emissions in the next five years depends on scientific and technological progress," Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan said in a congratulatory letter to the conference. "Innovation of science and technology should be stressed in environmental protection."
The conference also saw the establishment of the country's largest environment think tank, which will merge the State Environmental Advisory Council and the Scientific and Technological Committee of SEPA, in total over 80 top environmental scientists.
"Currently scientific and technological development does not serve the nation's environmental protection cause well," Zhou said.
"Environment enforcement and policy-making lacks scientific support. Many important decisions have been made without full research. Some basic figures about the environment are missing due to a lack of key research projects."
The Ministry of Science and Technology will work closely with SEPA on environmental science and technology development, according to Vice-Minister Liu Yanhua.
Environmental destruction causes the country economic losses of about 5 percent of its gross domestic products each year, according to Liu.
(China Daily August 21, 2006)