Wednesday, November 02, 2005

China has 'worst' water crisis

Beijing - China's water crisis - from severe shortages to heavy pollution - was the worst in the world and required urgent action, said a top government official on Tuesday.

Deputy minister of construction Qiu Baoxing said China was "facing a water crisis more severe and urgent than any other country in the world".

The construction ministry was responsible for supplying water to residents.

According to the China Daily, Qiu warned: "We've got to solve the problem before it is too late."

China's water supply was too small for its huge population of 1.3 billion people.

Groundwater tables

The report said its per capita water availability was about a quarter of the world average and it was expected to get worse, partly due to falling groundwater tables.

In addition, among China's seven major rivers, five were seriously polluted.

Qian Yi, a professor of environmental engineering from Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said waste was also a major problem, as more than 20% of the water supply in China's cities were leaked out from the water pipe networks.

Qian said: "Short sightedness in economic development accompanied with environmental destruction is still widespread in China."

Water quality, supply

Deputy minister Qiu said the government had stepped up efforts to save water in the past 20 years and planned to carry out a number of measures to ensure water quality and supply.

Qiu said the urban wastewater treatment rate would be raised from 45.6% to 60% in five years, with major cities reaching 70%.

The ministry of construction would also work with the ministry of health to put together a new set of standards for drinking water.

Qiu said meanwhile, market mechanisms would be introduced to the urban water industry, adding that the government welcomed foreign investment to bring in cutting-edge technologies and management methods.

"We must take precautionary measures before the urban water ecosystem collapses."


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