ZHENGZHOU: Despite two-digit economic growth in the third quarter, both air and water pollution dropped for the first time thanks to intensified environmental protection efforts.
The latest figures from the environmental watchdog show that in the first nine months, emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), the major air pollutant, hit 19.06 million tons, down 1.81 percent year on year. Chemical oxygen demand (COD), a key water pollution index, was 10.44 million tons, down 0.28 percent.
Zhou Shengxian, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), released the figures at the national water pollution control conference Wednesday in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan.
In the first half, SO2 fell only 0.88 percent, from 12.74 million tons to 12.63 million tons; and COD increased 0.24 percent - from 6.89 million tons to 6.91 million tons.
"This shows measures to improve environmental quality have worked," Zhou said.
In the first nine months, desulfurizing facilities were installed in coal-fired power generation units with a capacity of more than 74 gigawatts. Urban wastewater treatment facilities were expanded to treat an additional 9 million tons daily. Last year, a capacity of 11 million tons of daily treatment was added.
Meanwhile, key pollution sources were brought under control as more than 1,700 plants adopted intensive water pollution treatment, and small but heavy-polluting plants were shut down.
Among them, 250 small coal-fired generating units, with a combined capacity of 9.03 gigawatts, were shut down. Operations in more than 900 paper mills were suspended while they were renovated or told to improve wastewater processing facilities, Zhou said.
Provincial environmental watchdogs also strengthened enforcement, and more than 10,000 pollution cases were investigated.
Zhou, however, said the national goal of cutting major pollutant emissions by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010, or 2 percent every year, is hard to meet.
A report released earlier by the SEPA said the overall environmental situation was still "serious" with frequent pollution accidents affecting the quality of life for many people.
Last year, 842 pollution accidents were reported, including 482 cases of water pollution and 232 cases of air pollution.
At the conference, Zhou listed measures to control pollution.
Any region that cannot fulfill pollution control tasks will be banned from launching new projects.
Industrial plants are required to apply for pollution emission licenses, without which they are forbidden from production.
Waste treatment will be promoted in rural areas, with measures to discourage the use of pesticide and fertilizer.
In cities, wastewater treatment charges will be raised to better reflect the cost.