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Safe drinking water still in short supply in rural China
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As of the end of 2006, only 23.1 percent of rural households in China had access to treated drinking water, while the rest used water from wells, rivers, ponds or precipitation, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

More than 10 percent of rural families reported difficulties in getting drinking water, the NBS said.

These findings, from the second national agriculture census, which began in 2006, reflected conditions among 226 million rural households nationwide.

The census collected data on agricultural production, the rural labor force and rural employment, living conditions of rural residents and the environment of rural communities. The first agriculture census was launched in 1996.

NBS said that less than 13 percent of rural families had flush toilets, while nearly 43 percent used poorly-built toilets or had no toilets at all.

The census showed that 99.3 percent of rural families owned at least one house. In rural areas, each household is eligible to obtain a plot of land on which to build a home. Housing areas averaged 128 square meters per household.

Agricultural experts said that rural living standards had improved significantly between the two censuses. However, the first census provided no comparison figures.

The government has boosted investment in the countryside, slashed fees and taxes for farmers, introduced medical care schemes and strengthened protection of farmers' land rights.

China invested 420 billion yuan (about US$58.7 billion) last year in the countryside, representing a record-high increase of 80 billion yuan from 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2008)

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