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Confusion at the heart of the problem

Updated: 2013-06-28 08:05
By Wu Wencong ( China Daily)

Experts say the management of groundwater quality lacks coordination, because four ministries are involved, each with overlapping responsibilities but insufficient resources.

They are the Ministries of Environmental Protection, Water Resources, Land and Resources, and Housing and Urban-Rural Development. The first three play a vital role in ensuring and controlling the quality of groundwater.

"The Land and Resources Ministry is responsible for protecting the geological environment, but this mainly focuses on the control and prevention of geological disasters, not regular pollution," Ma Zhong, head of the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Renmin University of China, wrote in a paper published in Environmental Protection, a professional magazine, in March.

Chen Ming, an official at the Ministry of Water Resources, said water resources departments are in charge of deciding the quantity of water consumed by different provinces and enterprises, but they aren't provided with information about the sources of pollution.

"The Ministry of Environmental Protection is in charge of pollution emissions, but it does not have a groundwater-monitoring network, nor does it have strong technical forces in the field," said Gao Cunrong, director of the department of groundwater monitoring at the China Institute of Geological Environmental Monitoring.

He said the three ministries have overlapping functions in terms of groundwater monitoring and management, which has led to a number of problems.

"None of them can be held responsible individually, because they all have the task of protecting groundwater from pollution," he said.

Gao suggested that the three ministries and related departments at all levels should build a national geological information database. Each ministry could input the findings of its research into the database rather than replicating each other's work. Some of the data would also be available to various industries and organizations.

(China Daily 06/28/2013 page6)