U.S. Water News Online
SHANGHAI, China -- About 300 million people living in
China's vast countryside drink unsafe water tainted by chemicals and
other contaminants, the government said in its latest acknowledgment
of mounting risks from widespread pollution.
The most common threat to water, after drought, is chemical
pollutants and other harmful substances that contaminate drinking
supplies for 190 million people, state media quoted E Jingping, a
vice minister for water resources, as saying.
The report follows recent chemical spills in the northeast and
south of the country that temporarily spoiled water supplies for
millions of people and highlighted the severity of the pollution
The problems are not limited to the countryside. About 90 percent
of China's cities have polluted groundwater, the official Xinhua News
Agency reported, citing a recent nationwide survey.
In Shanghai, the country's biggest and wealthiest city, fetid,
stinky canals bubble with pollution. The city's tap water, drawn
partly from the heavily polluted Yangtze River, is yellowish and
smelly, despite efforts to clean up local waterways.
Some 136 Chinese cities report severe water shortages, adding to
the problem, Xinhua said.
"The top priority of our drought relief work is to ensure safe
drinking water and safeguard people's health," Xinhua quoted E as
telling a conference in the western city of Chengdu.
Heavily polluting paper and chemical plants have long been cited
as key sources of degradation of most of China's waterways. In some
areas, the problems have prompted riots by local residents outraged
by chronic health problems and the destruction of their fields and
Millions of other Chinese face risks from naturally occurring
contaminants, such as excess fluorine, which affects water supplies
for 63 million people, and arsenic, which taints water supplies for 2
million. Another 38 million have only brackish water to drink, the
Earlier, authorities reported that toxins in the Bei River, in
southern China's Guangdong province, had nearly returned to safe
levels after a Dec. 15 spill of more than 1,000 tons of cadmium-laced
water from a smelter in the city of Shaoguan.
Cities along the Bei temporarily stopped drawing water from the
river and dams were closed to keep the spill away from the provincial
Residents in Russia's Far East have been warned against eating
fish after a 110-mile-long slick from a chemical spill in
northeastern China crossed the border earlier. That spill, from a
Nov. 13 chemical plant explosion in the city of Jilin, forced Chinese
cities along the Songhua River to shut off water for days.
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