It was impossible for He Yongbao to enjoy this year's Spring
Festival because his elder brother, in the prime of life, died of
cancer a fortnight ago.
He's brother is one of several hundred people who have died in
the village in Wengyuan, a rural county in south China's
Guangdong Province, in recent years.
Locals believe the deaths are related to pollution in the
Provincial officials admit that more than 40 percent of the
province's rural people do not have access to safe drinking
They also received 80,000 complaints about pollution last
"Opencast mining, which began about 20 years ago, has seriously
polluted the water and soil in my hometown. Well water is hardly
drinkable, and rice and vegetables are badly contaminated with
heavy metals," He said.
"About 260 residents in my area have died of cancer in the past
18 years and others have contracted the illness."
He Yongbao's complaint was recently reiterated by Liang
Lianluan, an environmental science professor at the Guangzhou-based
University of Technology.
"Pollution, especially water pollution, has become increasingly
serious in rural areas in the province; it can no longer be
neglected," the professor told China Daily.
The authorities have been keeping a close eye on pollution in
urban areas, but there has been very little attention given to
rural areas, Liang said.
"Water pollution in rural areas might not be as bad as in urban
areas, but it surely is more extensive," he said.
According to the professor, the abuse of agricultural chemicals,
including fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers; the lack of
sewage disposal facilities; the cultivation of poultry; and
untreated waste from small township enterprises are all responsible
for water pollution in rural areas in the province.
Sources say that about 2.5 million tons of pollutants are poured
into the Pearl River, the most important river in the province,
There are hardly any drainage systems or rubbish treatment
plants in rural areas in the province, with waste and sewage simply
discarded, making pollution inevitable.
The professor said that provincial authorities should quickly
establish an integrated environmental supervision mechanism.
They should also introduce technology to deal with pollution
problems in rural areas.
According to Chen Guangrong, deputy director of Guangdong
Provincial Environmental Protection Administration, the authorities
have realized the urgency of this issue.
Regulations are being developed to protect drinking water. This
will soon be submitted to deputies of the provincial people's
congress for examination and approval, he said.
The official said that environmental protection authorities
received about 80,000 complaints related to pollution in the
province last year, most of which were related to water
Chen said that his administration will keep a closer eye on
enterprises liable to pollute water in the province's rural
At a recent work conference, Zhou Rifang, head of the provincial
water resources department, said that 22.08 million rural people do
not yet have access to safe drinking water, making up 40 percent of
the province's total rural population.
Of them, 14.36 million have access only to substandard drinking
water, with the remaining 7.72 million suffering from inconvenient
access to drinkable water.
The province will set aside 7.2 billion yuan (US$900 million) to
solve these problems in the 11th Five-Year Plan Period (2006-10),
(China Daily February 13, 2006)