Two major rivers remain heavily polluted despite more than a decade's efforts to clean them, posing a threat to the water safety of one sixth of the country's 1.3 billion population, a report showed Sunday.
More than half the water in the Huaihe River is highly polluted, said a report released by the environment and resources protection committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Although the emission of chemical oxygen demand (COD), an important indicator of water pollution, in the Huaihe River has been decreasing since 2004, it was still about 83 percent above the target level last year.
The pollution threatens drinking water safety in cities along the river, as many of them draw from the river for their waterworks. For instance, the report said, only half the water taken from the river met the safety standard in Bengbu city of East China's Anhui Province from January to June this year.
The report also showed that 80 percent of the groundwater as deep as 50 meters along the Huaihe River is seriously polluted.
Pollution in the Huaihe River poses a threat to the huge project to divert water from the south to the north, the report warned.
"The water diversion will start next year. If the situation continues, the water quality cannot be ensured," committee Chairman Mao Rubai said when delivering a report to the NPC Standing Committee.
The picture in Northeast China's Liaohe River is equally bleak: About half of the river is severely polluted. COD emissions into the river have been on a steady increase since 2001, and the figure was about 76 percent above the target level last year, the report showed.
"As the river goes into the Bohai Sea, the pollution poses a direct threat to sea water quality," Mao said.
He said cities along the two rivers were both "victims" and "creators" of the pollution.
According to the report, about 40 percent of sewage from Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan, goes into a main tributary of the Huaihe River without being properly treated. The situation is even worse in eight cities in Anhui Province where half the sewage is directly discharged into the river.
In Shenyang, capital city of the northeastern Liaoning Province, 400,000 tons of sewage is released into a major tributary of the Liaohe River every day.
Mao said insufficient funding is to blame. He said according to the fiscal plan from 2000 to 2005, governments at all levels should have earmarked 44 billion yuan ($5.8 billion) to clean the two rivers, but only about half the amount was allocated.
The central government has also promised 150 billion yuan ($20 billion) for the construction of sewage work treatment plants in urban areas from last year to 2010, but so far only one-fifth has been allotted.
Mao said apart from the funds already promised, his committee suggests the central government allocate at least an additional 30 to 40 billion yuan ($4 to 5 billion) a year to help improve water pollution.