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Pollution fuels China drinking-water crisis
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The supply of safe drinking water to China is facing severe threats, a top health official said yesterday.

The challenges include already scarce water reserves still being drained by rising industrial production, environmental pollution and a damaged ecology, Vice Health Minister Chen Xiaohong told a national forum on environment and health in Beijing.

China supports about 22 percent of the world's population, but has only seven percent of its water supply. Most urban water-purifying facilities are backward and cities are failing to properly monitor and test drinking water, according to Chen.

Many rural residents still have to drink water that either has a high fluorine and arsenic content or is tainted with blood fluke, he said.

China's total water volume stands at 2.8 trillion cubic meters, of which 840 billion cubic meters can be used, Duan Hongdong, deputy head of the Ministry of Water Resources' planning department, told the central government's Website on Tuesday.

Duan cited a recent national survey and assessment on water quality. Annual demand for water in recent years has averaged 550 billion to 560 billion cubic meters nationwide, Duan said. Industrial use is increasing, while agricultural use is decreasing.

The water resources ministry is considering a national system to conserve and improve the ecology related to water supply, he said.

Chen said the country's short supply of drinking water is worsened by environmental pollution and an upset ecological balance mainly caused by the country's economic boom of the past decade.

Authorities have blamed pollution for the outbreak of blue algae in Taihu Lake in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, in May that shut tap-water supplies to millions of people. There were nearly 10,000 enterprises operating around the lake before the outbreak. In the mid-1990s, massive amounts of sewage were dumped in the lake.

All About Water pollution, Water shortage

(Shanghai Daily November 22, 2007)
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