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Research Throws Light on Lives of Rural Poor
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Unsafe drinking water, untreated sewage discharges and lagging transportation are some of the most pressing problems facing the country's rural villages, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey sheds light on village life at a time when the campaign to develop the countryside is starting to take effect.

Conducted by the Ministry of Construction, the survey covered 74 villages in nine provinces.

The survey showed that 41 percent of the villages do not have centralized water supplies, meaning no tap water. Nearly all of the villages lacked water-discharge and wastewater treatment facilities.

Few of the villages had been organized according to any sort of zoning plan, resulting in the mixed distribution of residential dwellings and livestock shelters at 70 percent of villages surveyed.

Also, 90 percent of the village rubbishes lacked rubbish collection and fire-fighting facilities.

"The grave conditions in rural areas have severely affected the health of the rural population," said Zhao Hui, an official in charge of township construction with the ministry.

While many renovation and construction projects have been carried out in rural areas, experts have called for more planning to regulate the building of public infrastructure and residential areas to prevent potential health and safety problems.

"Villages should be subject to stricter planning to ensure a reasonable distribution of structures," said Zhao, who also called for more legislation to safeguard the health rights of rural people.

The survey comes at a time when cases of misconduct have been reported in the "new countryside" campaign.

The authorities kicked off a massive campaign to build a so-called harmonious socialist countryside last year. It is intended to raise living standards and guarantee a hygienic environment and more democracy. But some local leaders have apparently taken the campaign as a signal to build more buildings. They have even gone into to debt to do so.

"Bearing in mind the urgent problems, the campaign should be based on the present status of every village. Government funds should be directed towards concrete problems rather than the construction of new buildings," said Li Bingdi, an official with the ministry.

(China Daily June 27, 2007)

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