BEIJING -- China plans to invest more than 330 billion yuan (US$41.3 billion)
in sewage treatment facilities in urban areas from 2006 to 2010, a senior
Ministry of Construction official said Tuesday.
"Work on urban waste water treatment facilities and pipelines will be
accelerated," Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing said.
The government had stepped up efforts to improve urban water quality, but was
still facing "major" problems such as water shortages, worsening pollution and
degradation of rivers, he acknowledged.
Overall, China's water resources were still deteriorating, despite
improvements in some areas. Three major sources of pollution -- urban sewage,
industrial and agricultural waste water -- were far from being effectively
The government has admitted missing two targets in the country's 10th
Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) period: energy costs and pollution curbs. By the end
of last year, 278 of China's 661 cities had no sewage treatment plants.
An official report shows Chinese factories use five to ten times more water
than the average in developed countries for an equivalent amount of industrial
output. In other words, China has relatively little water but wastes what it
Qiu warned that China would have to pay a big price to reestablish water
ecology once it is seriously degraded.
Work is underway on a giant south-to-north water diversion project. Its
middle and eastern lines will cost as much as 320 billion yuan. It will also
include a western line.
The country will renovate damaged water distribution networks as well as
networks that are more than 50 years old by the end of next year, Qiu said.
At least 95 percent of urban homes would be supplied with clean water by
2010, up from 91.1 percent at the end of 2005.
China will raise water prices step by step. Qiu said sewage treatment costs
would be included in water prices for all urban homes by the end of the year,
leading to a 0.8 yuan rise for a ton of water.
Compared with five dollars per ton in the United States and 2.5 euros in
France, China's tap water is very cheap. But Qiu said the price should be raised
gradually so as not to shock ordinary people's "tolerance for change".
"We need to learn from water utilization experience in other countries," Qiu
said, announcing that the World Water Congress and Exhibition will be held in
Beijing from September 10 to 14, with nearly 3,000 water experts and scholars
and government officials expected.
The congress will increase worldwide awareness of water shortages and other
water issues, he said. Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan will be honorary
president and deliver a keynote speech to the congress. It is the first time the
congress is being held in an Asian city.
"All the preparatory work is now well underway ," he said.