Although China's air pollution keeps making headlines, its water pollution is just as urgent a problem. One-fifth of the country's rivers are toxic, while two-fifths are classified as seriously polluted. In 2012 more than half of China's cities had water that was "poor" or "very poor". Last week China's ministry of environmental protection announced a trillion-yuan (US$163 billion) plan to start dealing with this urgent issue.
Worsening water pollution is fueling social discontent. Last week villagers in south-western Yunnan province attacked a factory that was discharging waste water. [Photo/Greenpeace]
The action plan, which is currently being drafted, will focus on curbing water pollution in the worst affected areas and preventing future pollution of the better conserved waters, deputy minister of environmental protection Zhai Qing said at a press conference.
Proposed measures reportedly include cutting industrial waste water discharge, improving sewage management in cities and introducing better treatment for polluted water in rural areas.
"The situation of China's water environment is still very grim," the deputy minister said, quoting the figures of China's annual volume of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) and ammonia nitrogen emissions, common indicators of water quality. The current annual volumes of the two stands at 24 million tonnes and 2.45 million tonnes respectively, Zhai said.
According to China Business News, China will have to reduce its annual volumes of COD and ammonia nitrogen emissions by 30-50% before there's any significant improvement of its water.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based green NGO, told chinadialogue that China's waste water discharge has far exceeded the nation's environmental bearing capacity and hence the incoming action plan is "very necessary".