Jilil Kashgary | Radio Free Asia [caption id="attachment_2492" align="alignleft" width="225"] Water pollution in China (Bert van Dijk)[/caption] A water conservation project in a remote prefecture of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) begun two decades ago has yet to bring clean drinking water to more than half of the area’s population, according to officials and local residents. According to a joint report by the Water Conservancy Office of southwestern Xinjiang’s Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) prefecture and the regional Water Conservancy Department, more than one million of Hotan’s two million residents lack potable water, the website Taianshen.net reported recently. The conservation report said 20 years after the water project had begun, only 750,000 people in the prefecture had access to clean drinking water, while in areas such as Hotan’s Niya (Minfeng) county, up to 80 percent of the population did not. The issue was raised on Jan. 20 at the Third Meeting of the Twelfth People’s Congress of the XUAR, Taianshen.net reported, adding that representatives blamed the shortfall on the water project being designed according to population statistics in 1995, when it was launched. Residents of Hotan told RFA’s Uyghur Service that most of the infrastructure set up through the project lacked sanitation stations and water was instead being piped directly from reservoirs to people’s homes in the prefecture, leaving residents susceptible to waterborne diseases and other contaminants. “We use piped water in Keriya (Yutian) county—it’s been like that for years, at least five or six,” a Uyghur farmer from the county’s Achchan town said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The water source is pretty far away. They build a reservoir and water is brought directly from there through the pipes. It hasn’t been purified or disinfected. There is no facility there and this is a remote town, so … if there are any waterborne diseases, we are out of luck.” The farmer said that a number of years ago, inspectors came to the area and proclaimed the water suitable for consumption, so residents continued to drink it. “So far, we haven’t seen anybody get sick from the water,” she said. A water official in Achchan confirmed that his town relied on piped river water that simply had sediment removed from it. “The source of our water is from the river—it’s brought to the reservoir where it sits for three or four days and then it is sent to people’s homes by pipes,” the official said. “We don’t have any disinfection process involved here. It is just being sent out after the mud settles out of the water,” he said, before cutting the conversation short.