More than 8,000 Chinese enterprises have been penalized for pollution offences in the first eight months this year -- marking a "success" and indicating a "grim" task ahead, said the head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on Wednesday.
In a report on economic and social development this year to the 29th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, NDRC director Ma Kai said: "China's drive to improve energy efficiency and cut pollution emissions has achieved primary success."
Ma told lawmakers the government had strengthened supervision of enterprises with regard to energy-efficiency and pollution, saying dozens of construction projects were permanently closed.
By February, 12 projects that seriously violated environmental protection regulations, had been permanently shut down.
"The government has taken various measures to promote energy efficiency and to reduce pollution and strictly control the expansion of high energy-consuming industries."
Ma said 103 projects, involving total investment of 330.9 billion yuan (US$43.8 billion), that failed to meet environmental standards, had been refused or delayed approval this year.
Small coal-fired generation units with a combined generating capacity of 5.5 million kilowatts were closed in the first half.
The government set aside another 10 billion yuan (US$1.33 billion) to improve energy efficiency and cut pollutant discharges, bringing the total annual investment for the purpose to 21.3 billion yuan.
"But the energy consumption and pollution is still grim," Ma said.
The industrial added value of high energy-consuming industries, such as steel and nonferrous metals, which accounted for 70 percent of the total industrial energy consumption, rose 19.7 percent in the first seven months, 2.7 percentage points higher than the growth rate of the same period of 2006.
In the first half of this year, total power consumption in China rose 15.8 percent, three percentage points higher than the growth rate of the same period of 2006, and that of heavy industry rose 18.8 percent, up 4.6 percentage points.
Ma vowed to take strict measures to save energy and reduce pollutant discharges the latter half.
"We will continue to adopt a stricter market access standard for the new industrial projects and curb the blind expansion of industries of high energy consumption and heavy environmental pollution," he said.
"We will accelerate the elimination of outmoded production projects and quicken the development of the service and high-tech sectors, which consume less energy," according to the minister.
"We will strengthen construction of pollution treatment projects and develop clean energy and continue to urge companies to save energy and reduce pollutant discharges through both economic and legislative means," he said.
The government has set a target of reducing energy consumption for every 10,000 yuan (US$1,324) of GDP by 20 percent by 2010, while pollutant discharges should drop by 10 percent.
But energy consumption fell only 1.23 percent last year, well short of the annual goal of four percent.
Premier Wen Jiabao vowed in this year's government report that the government would meet the energy saving and pollution control targets between 2006 and 2010 despite last year's setback.