Almost 17 million people in Sichuan Province do not have access
to safe drinking water, an official said yesterday.
Zhai Feng, chief of the environment and resource protection
committee with the Guangyuan people's congress, said: "People
collect drinking water directly from rivers and wells. But it is
not up to safety standards."
Many cases of esophageal cancer and gastrointestinal diseases
have been reported among Sichuan's rural areas, which is a direct
result of them drinking unsafe water, Zhai said.
He attributed much of the problem to pollution from factories in
To reduce operational costs, many factories discharge untreated
water directly into the river, he said.
A lack of environmental inspection staff is to blame for the
poor supervision of these companies, he said.
More environmental protection organizations need to be set up,
"There are no environmental protection organizations at town
level in Sichuan.
"In better developed East China, a town may have a pollution
monitoring station, a sewage treatment plant, and a rubbish
treatment facility. In Guangyuan, very few counties have even have
a rubbish plant," Zhai said.
Although Sichuan has a population of 86 million people, it is
not very well developed, he said.
The problem of water pollution has become increasingly serious
in Sichuan as a result of the rapid economic development,
urbanization and modernization of agriculture, he said.
Zhai said he has submitted a proposal to the Sichuan Provincial
People's Congress Standing Committee, suggesting it introduces a
local regulation to implement the national Water Pollution Control
"Water pollution controls must be built into the economic and
social development plans of every local government above county
level," he said.
"Local governments should close down heavy-polluting companies,
and stop new ones from setting up.
"In addition, any government official that fails to fulfill his
or her environmental obligations should be seriously punished,"
January 25, 2008)