Goal: Clean drinking water for all by 2020
Officials said yesterday they are ready to launch a long-term project to deal with the lack of clean water, a lack that is hurting the quality of life and threatening the health of millions in rural areas.
Zhai Haohui, vice-minister of water resources, said that by 2010 the plan is to cut down the number of residents without access to clean drinking water by one third.
"By the end of 2020, we are going to reach the goal of basically providing safe drinking water for all rural people," he said.
The deadline is part of the government's millennium goals declared to the United Nations.
"This problem must be tackled as more than 300 million rural residents throughout China still lack clean drinking water.
"In some areas, many farmers have to go several kilometres away to fetch drinking water, while some have to drink water with high fluorine or arsenic content or salty water that endangers their health."
Unsafe drinking water is connected to 80 per cent of all diseases and deaths in developing countries, ministry experts say. In China, more than 50 diseases are the direct result of unclean drinking water.
To date the government is still trying to work out the details of the plan but Zhai was confident that, after a careful study of local water and environmental conditions, authorities will be able to lay out an overall blueprint to meet the target.
He urged local water agencies to determine local needs, protect existing water sources and watch out for water pollution.
China's rural drinking water supply project, completed during the 10th-Five-Year Plan (2000-04), relieved water shortages for more than 57 million rural residents, ministry statistics say.
Over the past five years, more than 14 million rural families throughout 27 provinces have gained access to drinking water with more than 800,000 new water processing facilities going into operation.