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Water pollution becomes a matter of life or death
Guo ZiChina Daily  Updated: 2004-12-24 06:04

Minister of Water Resources Wang Shucheng said more than 70 per cent of the country's water resources are polluted. Talking at a conference on Wednesday, he said about 300 million Chinese are drinking unsafe water, and 190 million of them are actually drinking water that could harm them.

The matter needs urgent attention. China faces a shortage of water and serious pollution has made the problem worse.

Rural residents are the major victims.

Where most urban residents enjoy clean and safe tap water, millions of people in the countryside are still getting their drinking water directly from local rivers, streams and ponds. They have a much higher risk of being contaminated by bacteria and parasites.

Chinese people usually boil water before they drink it, but unfortunately many toxins are not eradicated through boiling.

Drinking water safety directly relates to people's health and well-being. Every effort must be made to guarantee everyone has this basic need supplied.

The central government has made great efforts to alleviate the situation. In the past four years, it has allocated more than 18 billion yuan (US$2.17 billion) to build 800,000 drinking water projects in rural areas.

But there is a lot still to be done to effectively control the source of pollution that contaminates drinking water in the first place.

Ineffective sewage treatment in adjacent urban areas and inadequate facilities for providing drinking water are among the problems. Local governments' indifference about pollution control contributes to the scourge. Worse, some blindly pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment.

The State plans to solve the problem by 2020.

But as people are still becoming ill and even dying because of polluted water everyday, it is unfair to ask our rural residents to wait for another 15 years or longer.

It is time for immediate and feasible action from all sides.

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