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Water pollution challenges China's green push


07:59, June 09, 2013

BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The water in a three-meter well in Zou Zhengmei's courtyard looks perfectly clean. But when cooking and drinking, she always gets water from a well 50 meters away.

The 62-year-old lives in a mountainous village called Tieshan, which means "iron mountain," in the city of Xinyu of east China's Jiangxi Province.

More than a decade ago, life changed when two lead and zinc mines and a gold mine opened two kilometers away. Poisonous chemicals from the mines would spell disaster for the village. The three mines were located in the mountains.

"At that time, the stream flowing down the mountains was yellow. Cattle would not drink the water from the stream and even fish would not swim up there," Zou said.

Villages gradually found their drinking water was also polluted.

Zou stopped using the well in her yard.

Similar cases of water pollution are not hard to find in China, posing health hazards for people and stark challenges for the country's drive to build a beautiful country.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said this week in a report that quality of the country's water sources is far from optimistic.

The quality of underground water was ranked "Poor" or "Relatively Poor" in 57.3 percent of the 4,929 monitoring points in 198 cities around the country, the report said.

According to the country's underground water standards, water of relatively poor quality can only be used for drinking after proper treatment. Water of poor quality cannot be drunk.

The report also showed that the resource in about 30 percent of water monitoring points in major rivers was of poor quality, according to the country's surface water standards.

In Tieshan, pollution from mines not only damaged farmland but also impacted people's health.

Zhang Xiaofeng, a 29-year-old villager who has now moved to the city, said no one in the village has been chosen to become a soldier in recent years, mainly due to health concerns.

"There was usually something wrong with the liver," Zhang said.

The city of Xinyu realized the seriousness of the environmental pollution as early as in 2008 and began to take drastic measures in a bid to pursue a "green path for growth."

The local government has shut down 247 enterprises, including those in Tieshan village since 2008 and started restoring the environment. It began planting trees and built water processing facilities.

After more than 30 years of growth since 1978, China has become the second largest economy in the world. However, environmental pollution remains a chronic problem.

To solve the problem, the government has been resolute.

At the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in November, it was made clear that the country would give high priority to making ecological progress and incorporating it into the process of advancing economic, political, cultural and social advancement.

At a at a study session of the Political Bureau of CPC Central Committee last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that the country will not sacrifice the environment for temporary economic growth, calling for all-round efforts to conserve resources and curb pollution.

"We should be fully aware of the urgency and difficulty of protecting the environment and reducing pollution as well as the significance and necessity of improving the environment," Xi said.

Yang Guohua, an official with the department of environmental protection of Jiangxi Province, said some local governments consider more about GDP (gross domestic product) in attracting investment than the impact on the environment.

To solve these environmental problems, the country must ensure that local governments act in line with the central government's policies, Yang said.

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