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Chinese lawmakers urge drinking water legislation

(Xinhua)

08:25, June 29, 2012

BEIJING, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese national lawmakers have called for better legislation to ensure drinking water quality and for a compensation mechanism to be established for areas that close industrial facilities to reduce water pollution but lose income as a result.

Members of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on Thursday reviewed a report submitted by the State Council, the central government, on work to ensure safe drinking water.

Wang Qingxi, vice chairman of the NPC Environment and Resources Protection Committee, said that the accelerating development of heavy chemical industry along major rivers in China is an important culprit for the country's deteriorating water quality.

According to government surveys conducted in 2007 and 2011, about 14 percent of China's water sources had unqualified drinking water and 11.4 percent of water supplies to cities were unsafe.

Jin Shuoren, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said that another major reason for China's worsening drinking water is that residents and enterprises near water sources are reluctant to protect the environment because of the likelihood that doing so will bring income losses.

For instance, three counties in east China's Jiangxi province that supply drinking water to Hong Kong have closed more than 300 water-polluting factories since the 1980s, but local residents and government now face difficult financial conditions.

Jin proposed that the government introduce policies to establish "ecological compensation" that provides alternative environmentally friendly financial sources.

Rita Fan, a member of the NPC Standing Committee from Hong Kong, said that although Hong Kong residents have made donations to those three counties, the poverty around the water sources can only be eliminated through a mechanism for compensation.

NPC Standing Committee member Zhao Xizhong said that national legislation for drinking water safety is essential since the current laws and regulations are powerless to protect the whole journey of drinking water from its source to the tap.

Another member, Xie Kechang, supported the call for legislation, saying the protection of drinking water concerns multiple government agencies with poor coordination and efficiency.

A government agency should be designated to be in charge of drinking water safety, according to Xie.

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