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Date Posted: 10:29 24/12/2004

Don't drink the water

Further evidence that baijiu is really the healthier option

ANYONE WHO has been to the industrial wasteland of Lanzhou in Gansu Province to taste the remarkable local beer - with its curious chemical glow and a metallic aftertaste that is at the same time redolent of plastics, petrochemicals and raw sewage - will understand the perils of drinking water in China. Such is the state of China's rivers that many of the more circumspect foreigners living in the country choose to cleanse their alimentary tracts with at least twenty bottles of mineral water a day in order to prevent parasitical worms from wriggling into their brains.

The Ministry of Water Resources this week revealed that 70% of China's rivers are polluted, and that at least 300 million people are drinking unsafe water. 190 million are drinking water that contains excessive amounts of toxic substances, the report says.

Speaking at a meeting held in the picturesque tourist city of Suzhou, Water Resources Minister Wang Yuancheng said that the deterioration in China's water quality is 'seriously threatening the health of the masses'.

Precisely how much the health of the masses is being threatened is evident when you consider that 660,000 suffer from dysentery every year, or that there are 500 million annual cases of the ascariasis intestinal worm, 836 million cases of simple diarrhoea, and 870,000 infected with the schistosome worm, according to surveys.

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