China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Digging deeper for cleaner water

By Guo Qiang (chinadaily.com.cn)

Updated: 2007-04-20 10:43

China's water pollution scares have led to well-digging businesses very busy as thousands of villagers resorted to digging120-metre-deep wells to reach cleaning drinking water, news reports said on Thursday.

And residents in Hebei province in northern China have to dig as deep as 200 metres, as shallower wells are too polluted for human consumption.

"Ten years ago, villagers dug some 20, or 30-metre-deep wells for drinking water and it cost several hundred yuan each. But water from 50-metre-deep wells are not drinkable due to pollution," an unnamed village head told the Yanzhao Metropolitan News.

"We have to drill at least 120-metre-deep wells and it costs each family 2,000 yuan (US$260) on average, which almost wipes out their annual incomes," the village head said.

Farmers' annual incomes in Hebei province, 50 miles north of Beijing was on average 3,800 yuan (US$494) in 2006.

The report added villages of Wurenqiao, Cuizhang and Nanloudi in Anguo county are the most hit by the lack of drinking water. Locals sell their grain and buy grain from other parts of China they don't believe is as polluted as theirs.

Pictures from the Yanzhao Metropolitan News show green water pumped from wells used to irrigate farmland in the county.

A villager said the priority is to look after their own health, not others. "Water pollution forces us to do that."

China is paying the price for its annual double-digit growth with severe environmental problems, including water pollution. Last week, Xinhua news agency said the country's Yangtze River, a lifeline for millions of people is now seriously and irreversibly polluted.

And the numbers are frightening. Reports said some 90 per cent of China's cities and 75 per cent of its lakes suffer from varying degrees of water pollution. This is because millions of households and industries discharge waste and sewage into its major waterways and rivers.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has admitted his country does not have a solution to the water pollution problem.

"Environmental pollution has definitely become a severe problem of China's development and this problem has not been solved very well", Wen said during a press conference last year.

The government is adding an environmentally adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) to demonstrate the waste created and environmental damage done due to economic growth.

In a move to deal with the water scares, the government is pledging to pour 30 million yuan into water treatment projects last year. And every family in China is required to pay sewage treatment fees. The amounts vary in China but each family pays on average 80 fen for every cubic metre of sewage.

Qiu Baoxing, the vice Minister of Construction said the reason behind the policy is to raise the awareness of water protection and to fund water treatment projects.

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