Beijing (AFP) Jan 21, 2011
China plans to invest $303 billion in water infrastructure projects over the next five years that would give millions of rural residents access to safe drinking water, state media reported.
Severe flooding and droughts across the country last year destroyed crops and drove up food prices, pushing inflation to its highest level in more than two years, prompting the investment.
Beijing will spend more than 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) in 2011 alone to "push forward construction of key projects", a water resources ministry official was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency late Thursday.
The projects include repairing ageing reservoirs and unsafe embankments and building other infrastructure to provide 60 million people with safe drinking water, Zhou Xuewen, in charge of planning, was quoted as saying.
By the end of 2011, 77 percent of the country's rural residents will have access to safe drinking water, the report said.
State media reported last month that China planned to invest $30 billion on water conservation projects in 2011 to reduce the impact of the weather on grain production.
The investment -- up 10 percent on the previous year -- will seek to improve irrigation and protect against natural disasters, the China Daily said, citing water resources minister Chen Lei.
It was not clear if the $30 billion investment was part of the $303 billion allocation announced on Thursday.
Concerned about food security and the threat of social instability from rising costs, Beijing is ramping up investment in water-related projects after spending $100 billion over the past five years.
A leading agriculture expert last year warned that climate change could trigger a 10 percent drop in China's grain harvest over the next 20 years.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has also predicted that China's food supply would be insufficient by 2030 and its overall food production could fall by 23 percent by 2050.
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