Chinese people's refusal to
accept an ever deteriorating environmental situation has resulted in a rising
number of "mass incidents", the country's chief environment official said on
Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration
(SEPA), did not give detailed figures or examples when addressing a national
environment meeting on Wednesday.
But Zhou did reveal that his agency received 1,814 petitions in the first
five months of the year appealing for a better environment, an 8 percent
increase over the same period of last year.
"As people's living standards rise, they are focusing more on the environment
and on quality of life," said Zhou, acknowledging that repeated environmental
incidents have undermined public confidence.
Since May, blue-green algae outbreaks have been reported in eastern Taihu
Lake, Chaohu Lake and southwestern Dianchi Lake, endangering local tap water
The local government said on Wednesday water supplies to 200,000 people in
Shuyang county in east China's Jiangsu Province had been halted for more than 40
hours after ammonia and azote polluted a local river.
An unending series of water pollution incidents has prompted environmental
officials to suddenly become very outspoken.
"In China the environment is facing extremely difficult conditions," Zhou
Zhou also revealed that the administration would treat the prevention of
pollution in the main rivers and lakes as the priority task in the last six
months of the year.
"We will give all the polluted rivers and lakes a rest," he said, admitting
that northern China's Liaohe River and Haihe River had been seriously
There is still a possibility of a pollution outbreak in Chaohu Lake, Dianchi
Lake and drainage area of the Three Gorges offshoot, he added.
Frequent water pollution incidents also increased the Cabinet's concern, as a
State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday
stressed the need to amend the existing law on handling of water pollution,
allowing for harsher punishment for illegal practices.
The growth of China's high energy-consuming and polluting industries in the
first five months of 2007 far exceeded that of the national economy, "posing
great difficulties for environmental protection," said Zhou.
SEPA vice-director Pan Yue said on Tuesday that "traditional ways of
development have caused the near breakdown of China's resources and environment
and people's lives are in great danger."
Local authorities in six cities, two counties and five industrial zones - all
in the vicinity of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, the Huaihe River and the
Haihe River - only have three months to fix their "environmental problems",
according to Pan.
He set in motion a plan to tackle water pollution in China's four major
rivers, mainly targeting illegal pollution discharge.