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China heading for water pollution crisis: Official
Updated: 2006-03-16 20:19

China is heading for a water pollution crisis as a booming economy raises industrial discharges and the number of incidents of toxic chemicals being spilled into rivers rises, a top environmental regulator said Thursday.

More than 300 million people in rural China already lack access to water considered clean enough to drink, said Pan Yue, deputy minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

China has recorded 70 pollution incidents in rivers since a chemical plant accident in November poisoned the Songhua River in the northeast and forced a major city to temporarily shut down its drinking water system, Pan said.

"The environmental crisis, particularly for water, is coming to China earlier than expected," Pan said in an interview with a visiting group of American newspaper editors.

The amount of sewage and industrial effluents discharged into China's rivers and lakes has risen each year since 2001, with more than 200 million tons of each released in 2004, according to a report handed out to the visiting delegation.

"In the next 15 years China aims to achieve a well-off society _ defined as a quadrupling of our gross domestic product _ but if we maintain current production and consumption patterns then our pollution and consumption of energy resources will also be increased fourfold," he said.

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