China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Tens of thousands to cross Pearl River as China strives for clean water

GUANGZHOU, March 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Tens of thousands of people in the southern city of Guangzhou will wade across the Pearl River, the third largest in China, in August 2006, as a symbol of the country's drive to clean its rivers.

launched the last mass crossing of the river in the 1970s but for the last 30 years, it has been impossible for a large group of people to swim across it due to heavy pollution.

water was limpid and full of fish before the late 1970s," recalled 66-year-old Guangzhou resident Li Yinghe. "At that time, we fetched drinking water directly from the river."

the accelerating industrialization in the Pearl River Delta after China adopted the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s resulted in serious pollution alongside rapid economic growth and improvement of people's living standards.

river began to smell and could not support fish in the late 1990s.

water was once so smelly that people even covered their noses when walking near," said Li Yinghe.

Pearl River was not the only river in China to suffered from bad pollution. "More than 70 percent of the country's rivers and lakes are polluted to a varying degree," said Gu Hao, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources.

than 300 million rural residents in China still lack access to clean water.

believe the water pollution not only aggravated water shortages, but also harmed people's health.

river crossing is far more than a sports activity," said Lin Shusen, party secretary of Guangzhou. "We hope we can turn Guangzhou into an environment-friendly city."

Zhang Guangning said that 9.5 billion yuan (about 1.18 billion US dollars) had been spent in preventing and controlling the pollution of the Pearl River since Guangdong resolved to transform it into clean river again in the late 1990's.

will invest another 18 billion yuan (about 2.24 billion US dollars) to solve the pollution in the next five years," said Zhang.

also stepped up cooperation on curbing pollution with provinces and regions along the river, including Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi.

quality in the Pearl River has improved a lot, yet many others were hit hard by heavy pollution and several of them, most notably the Songhua River in northeast China, was even contaminated by chemical spills last year, causing the cut-off of water supplies to million of people.

address the severe problem, the Chinese government unveiled a plan in Feb. 2006 to combat degradation of the country's environment for the next 15 years, with pollution control high on the agenda.

achieve the goals, the central government has outlined seven major tasks for environmental protection, with five focusing on pollution control including water, air and soil.

Wen Jiabao also addressed the National People's Congress earlier this month saying that the governments at various levels should make relentless efforts to ensure clean water and green lands for the future generations.

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