Countryside 'shadowed' by pollution
By Wang Xu (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-11 08:21
Just a few steps from Huang's home is the Liuyang River, which runs across Hunan province.
But despite his proximity to the river, for the past 10 years, Huang has been forced to use bottled water for drinking and his daily chores. So too have his fellow residents of the town of Baijia, which has neither a tap water supply nor a wastewater treatment facility.
As a result, wastewater is flushed directly into the river, along with pollutants from factories upstream. Not surprisingly, the townsfolk are reluctant to drink from it.
"The underground water is so polluted, even the water from our wells stinks," Huang said.
Huang is one of China's 700 million rural residents living under the shadow of pollution.
While the government has made huge efforts to improve the environment over recent years, analysts have said the countryside has received only a small proportion of the benefits.
Political advisors at the ongoing CPPCC session have called for more to be done to combat pollution in rural areas, which they say poses a serious threat to the safety of the environment in the country.
Lai Ming, vice-chairman of the Jiu San Society, one of China's eight non-Communist parties, said: "In some rural regions, the worsening environment is having a detrimental effect on people's lives and the development of communities.
"And pollution is a threat to this lifeline of China's 1.3 billion people."
According to a number of proposals at the CPPCC meeting, China's countryside is facing increasing environmental pressure.
As of the end of last year, about 260 million rural residents were without access to safe drinking water, and since 2000, some 10 million hectares of arable land have been polluted by heavy metals. At the same time, the nation's countryside churns out 120 million tons of garbage and 25 million tons of wastewater every year, little of which is treated.
The central government should allocate more funds for environmental protection in rural areas, Wang Shaojie, vice-chairman of the China Democratic National Construction Association, said.
In recent years, the majority of government funding for environmental protection has been spent on the industrial sector and in urban areas. More money has to go to the countryside, Wang said.
He said that the government should also introduce tax and credit incentives to encourage more private enterprises to get involved in the rural environmental protection market.
E Jingping, vice-minister of water resources, said: "The central government will continue to expand its spending to improve the rural environment."
It plans to ensure tap water supplies to 30 million people a year. So by 2015, water safety will no longer be a problem for rural residents, he said.