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Rivers polluted, drinking water tainted
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-30 06:17

A gloomy picture of polluted rivers, dirty drinking water and contaminated food and medicines was presented yesterday to the country's top legislators.

The water quality of the country's major rivers has continued to worsen, Sheng Huaren, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, revealed.

"Last year, water from half the tested sections of China's seven major rivers was undrinkable because of pollution," Sheng said in his report on the implementation of the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, which was adopted in 1984 and amended in 1996.

Of the seven major rivers, the Haihe, Liaohe, Huaihe, Yellow and Songhua rivers were the most seriously polluted, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration.

The state of the Yangtze and Pearl rivers was not much better, said Sheng. "The water quality of the Yangtze faces the possibility of worsening."

Although the Pearl River is in good condition as a whole, the Guangzhou section is seriously polluted, according to Sheng.

Drinking water in China's rural areas is also a major issue.

The vice-chairman said that according to the Ministry of Water Resources, over 300 million rural residents do not have access to safe drinking water, and about 190 million people drink water containing harmful contaminants.

Sheng urged the government to set detailed goals to prevent water pollution and suggested more money be spent in western regions, the upper reaches of rivers and poverty-stricken areas.

Meanwhile, Vice-Premier Wu Yi told lawmakers that agricultural production, food processing and distribution were beset with problems.

Reporting on food and medicine safety and the government's supervision work, she said: "Food safety has become a social issue in China.

"In some places, vegetables and fruits are grown using polluted water, or harmful pesticides are illegally used."

Fake wine, inferior milk powder and sub-standard oil have found their way onto the market and preservatives are overused in some foods, the vice-premier said.

Last year, there were 381 cases of severe food poisoning, defined as those that poison over 100 people or kill more than one.

To deal with the problems, the State Council started a campaign two years ago to ensure food safety, Wu said.

Children's food, rural food markets, packaged food, food additives and health food top the agenda for supervision this year, she added.

She also vowed to combat fake and inferior medicines, as well as misleading advertisements.

In another development, a State Council conference presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao approved a plan to upgrade the supervision system for food and medicines.

The conference agreed on the revamp and relocation of three medical organizations.

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