China must sharply improve environmental protection or it could face disaster
following two decades of breakneck growth that have poisoned its air, water and
soil, the country's top environmental official warned Saturday.
The director of the State Environmental Protection Administration said that
more than half of China's 21,000 chemical companies are near the Yangtze and
Yellow rivers, which provide drinking water for tens of millions of people, and
accidents could lead to "disastrous consequences."
director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, speaks at a
news conference in Beijing March 11, 2006.
"Facts have proved that prosperity at the expense of the environment is very
superficial and very weak," Zhou Shengxian said at a news conference during the
annual meeting of the National People's Congress. "It's only delaying disaster."
China's cities are among the world's smoggiest, and the government says its
major rivers are badly polluted, leaving hundreds of millions of people without
clean drinking water.
'River thaw not to cause new pollution'
Russian and Chinese experts have concluded the thaw of the frozen Songhua
River, where a severe toxic chemical spill happened last year, will not cause
pollution again this spring, Zhou said.
The conclusion, made by nearly 1,000 experts after complicated tests and
analysis in the past days, said that fish in the river and dairy products made
by farms along the river can be eaten safely, said Zhou.
"I am very happy to hear that the conclusion of the supervision tests made by
the Russian side is completely the same to ours.
"The final conclusion is that this spring, the Songhua River will not have a
second incident of pollution," he said at a news conference during the annual
session of China's parliament.
A blast at a PetroChina chemical factory on November 13, 2005, in Northeast
China's Jilin Province, spewed at least 100 tonnes of toxic benzene into the
It formed an 80 kilometre-long slick, which slowly moved downstream as the
river was icing, leaving 4 million people in Harbin, the capital city of
Heilongjiang Province, without tap water for days.
The toxic slick reached neighbouring Russia in the middle of December,
causing great concern over the safety of drinking water.
Many people have been worried about more pollution problems as the ice of the
river begins to melt in warmer weather.
Water tests in Russia revealed the pollution presented no danger to people,
Russian officials have been quoted by agencies as saying.
Zhou also revealed that the Chinese Government is making
major efforts to avoid similar pollution incidents in the future caused by those
chemical factories located along rivers and lakes.