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Safe Drinking Water Targeted
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China will tighten pollution controls over the next five years in its campaign to provide safe drinking water to its populous countryside, a top official said yesterday.

"Handling water challenges properly is not only strategically important to China's modernization drive, but will also contribute to global sustainable development," said Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan at the opening of the World Water Congress, a gathering in Beijing of some 3,000 officials and experts from around the world.

"The Chinese government pays great attention to water conservation and protection, regarding it as a priority," Zeng said.

The government also plans to step up conservation, making water-saving technologies mandatory and pushing for more use of recycled water, the vice premier said.

The five-day water congress is to focus on water management and environmental and health challenges, and include an exhibition of new water and sewage technologies. The event is organized by the London-based International Water Association and China's Ministry of Construction.

China considers ensuring safe water supplies as the most pressing environmental issue facing a country where 1.3 billion people compete for supplies with booming industries.

Last month, the government said it will spend 1 trillion yuan (US$125 billion) to improve water treatment and recycling by 2010 to fight the mounting threat of urban water pollution.

The government says some 340 million people, mostly in rural areas, lack access to water clean enough to drink.

This summer, parts of southwestern China have been suffering from the most severe drought in 50 years. Authorities say lack of rain has left 18 million people without adequate drinking water.

China should put more emphasis on water conservation and management, as well as stepping up controls on industrial pollution, Zeng said.

"The substandard quality of drinking water exemplified by high levels of fluorine and arsenic, brackish taste and other pollution have been targeted," he said.

(Shanghai Daily September 11, 2006)

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