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BEIJING - Drought-stricken China, where hundreds of millions of people are without regular access to drinking water, is turning to desalinated seawater to help end the crisis, the Government said.

Factories have also dumped toxic industrial waste into rivers and lakes in China, home to one-fifth of the world's population but only 7 per cent of its water resources.

"China is expected to desalinate 800,000 to 1 million cu m of sea water per day and use 55 billion c m annually by 2010," the State Development and Reform Commission said, detailing China's ninth five-year plan. China desalinated 120,000 cu m of sea water per day last year.

China is also investing billions in a project to transfer water from its lush south to the arid north.