A senior official in Hainan province who said the southern island's water became polluted because of rapid economic development has infuriated many in the region by appearing to be nonchalant about the problem.
"The more developed a city is, the more polluted the water will be," Fu Chuanjun, deputy director of the water resources bureau in Hainan's capital of Haikou, told a local TV station last Monday.
Two boys swim in a sea port polluted with floating Styrofoam, plastic bags and household garbage in Haikou, Hainan province in this file photo. [China Daily]
Polluted water has been a major headache for authorities in the province for several decades.
In Haikou, only 67 percent of sewage is being treated. And less than one-quarter of sewage is being processed in the tourist haven, Sanya, according to statistics from the provincial government.
The other 16 cities and counties in the province have no sewage treatment plants at all and residents "rarely see a clear river or lake", the Hainan Daily reported on June 18.
Nandu River, the longest river in the province, is polluted, the latest water quality report released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on June 23 showed.
From 2000 to 2007, 66 villagers from among the 2,829 people in Hainan's Xinqun village died of cancer that was attributed to heavily polluted water, the Hainan Economy reported on Nov 3 last year.
Many residents, including a large number of online users, have taken exception to Fu's remarks to reporters about the state of the island's water resources.
An online user called v-shengso summed up the mood of many when he said on the major online forum Tianya that water resources officials should try to solve problems instead of stating the obvious.
But some applauded Fu for speaking out.
A netizen called Zihanyingmeng said the official showed courage for telling the truth and for reminding the public that it is the job of every one, not just the government, to protect the environment.
Liu Hairong, a member of both the National People's Congress - the country's top legislative body - and the National Environment and Resources Conservation Committee, told Hainan Daily that the government plays a crucial role in tackling water pollution.
Zhang Shouquan, deputy director of the Beijing water resources bureau, said water in the capital is clear, with 93 percent of sewage treated and about 5 billion yuan allocated to wastewater treatment.
"The water in Beijing was once polluted due to economic development, but through the government's efforts, water quality in the capital is improving every day," Zhang told China Daily yesterday.
Similarly, Haikou authorities are speeding up the building of 21 sewage treatment plants with five set to be finished before 2010, to realize the 11th five-year plan goal of reducing pollution levels, according to figures released by the provincial government in June.
More than 2.58 billion yuan ($379.4 million) will be invested in the construction of sewage treatment plants with the daily amount of sewage treatment reaching 759,000 tons, authorities had said.