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Up to 40 percent of China's rivers are seriously polluted

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

China's air pollution is everywhere apparent. Photographs of Beijing depict a city enshrouded in black soot, and reports of deeply unhealthful air are an ill-kept international secret. What's generally not known about the Asian giant is its water pollution problem, where it is estimated that 40 percent of the country's rivers are badly polluted.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - in a recent instance, chemicals contaminated a river in China's northern Shanxi province. Authorities took an interim five days to report the incident. While the mayor offered an apology and chemical plant officials were dismissed, the spill ended up affecting drinking water in several cities and towns downstream, dealing another blow to public confidence in the government.
 
Natural water sources have become scarce as well. In the capital of Beijing, debate over water quality and quantity is coming to a head.
 
"Of the more than 100 rivers that there are now in Beijing, only two or three can be used for tap water - and those are the ones that the government in Beijing is protecting," Zhao Feihong, a water researcher at the Beijing Healthcare Association says. "Those are the ones that we can use water from, the rest of the rivers if they have not dried up, then they are polluted by discharge."
 
Zhao and her husband, also a water researcher, recently confessed that they have not let Beijing's tap water touch their lips in 20 years. Becoming the focus of state-media online outlets, their story drew attention just as Beijing's city government began releasing water quality statistics the first time. Zhao applauded the move as a step in the right direction.
 
"The fact that it can be disclosed is an improvement for the common people who will better understand the water that they drink," she says. "So this is a relatively good thing, but I think that publicizing this figure is not enough."
 
Zhao says that the government should let the public know immediately what to do if something affects the drinking water.
 
Another clan water activist, Hao Yungang became a part of Beijing's water debate after publishing photos of gunk gathering in his faucet on China's Weibo micro-blogging service.
 
"I did not anticipate that the level of interest would be so high," Hao says. "But these days, people have higher and higher expectations about the quality of life, whether it is water, food safety, pollution or even traffic."
 
Hao says he uses tap water to wash dishes and filtered water to cook. While he believes officials who say Beijing's water is safe at its source, he knows that what happens between the treatment plant and his home is another matter.

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