A yellow river runs in Shanghai's taps
Bill Savadove in Shanghai
A reporter revealed Shanghai's dirty secret live on national television yesterday by criticising the city's drinking water quality in a question to Premier Wen Jiabao about the mainland's environmental pollution.
'Shanghai's water is simply undrinkable, and what's more it's yellow,' a Taiwanese reporter, who identified himself as Chou Yo-fei from the Taiwan Human Rights News, said in a lengthy statement as cameras carried his words to millions. Mr Wen used the question to discuss what the mainland was doing to tackle pollution, without mentioning Shanghai.
Shanghai residents echoed the complaint yesterday, while a spokesman rushed to defend the city.
As Shanghai prepares to host the 2010 World Expo along the Huangpu River and attract more foreign companies, water quality is a big issue. Shanghai has set a goal of making it possible to drink water directly from the tap by 2010.
One housewife said she used a US-made water filter. 'If I don't use the filter, the water tastes a little bitter even after boiling and then it is no good for cooking. There must be some harmful substances in the water,' she said.
Experts say the problem is not necessarily drinking water treatment but pollution introduced while transporting water to households through old pipes.
A Shanghai government spokesman admitted he 'sometimes' did not drink directly from the tap, but he said authorities were working on the problem.
Shanghai's main water source is the Huangpu, a main shipping lane and a dumping ground for factories and households. Besides cleaning up the Huangpu, authorities have announced plans to bring more drinking water from the nearby Yangtze River and drill deep underground reservoirs.
About 300 million rural residents are drinking contaminated water, while 90 per cent of the mainland's cities have polluted groundwater.