China Environmental News Digest

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Pollution threatens Beijing's future drinking water source

Shanghai Daily Home

POLLUTION is threatening Beijing's future source of drinking water as factory discharges and untreated sewage seep into a reservoir planned for the capital's use by 2010, water experts said.

The reservoir, in Danjiangkou City in Hubei Province, is part of the south-to-north water diversion project, which pumps water to the north since it receives less rainfall than the south.

Though the Danjiangkou Reservoir water meets national drinking standards, it is far from pure. Data showed the reservoir had reached the acceptable limit of pollutant concentrations.

Officials blame industrial discharges and untreated sewage dumped into tributaries connected to the reservoir.

In a survey conducted in April, authorities found 124 waste discharge points along the nine rivers leading to the reservoir, China Quality Monitoring magazine reported.

Enterprises including paper mills and smelters are major polluters. Xu Zhifang, an official at the local water resources protection authority, said they closed or phased out some production facilities to prevent pollution. Nonetheless, some unlicensed factories discharge pollutants secretly, Xu said.

"Don't take it for granted that the water in the Danjiangkou Reservoir is good," the magazine quoted Xu as saying. They still have a long way to go to guarantee the quality of Beijing's future water source, he said.

Residents living along the rivers are another pollution source, the report said. People in neighboring Ziyang County dump untreated sewage, human waste and garbage into the Hanjiang River, one of the rivers that empty into the reservoir.

Residents said there is no facility that functions as a cesspool in the area. Thus, they use the river for waste disposal.

According to the magazine, a nearby village was hit by five serious pollution problems that killed fish stock in the last 20 months.

In the latest incident, a large number of fish raised in Zhaihuaigou Village, which is near the reservoir, died in the Sihe River in early July. The loss was estimated to be worth more than 15 million yuan (US$1.87 million).

Similar problems occurred four times between March and July in 2005. Environment authorities found the water contained three times more phosphor than normal.

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