Government and Policy

New plan targets more pollutants

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-31 10:27
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Beijing - China plans to introduce ambitious new targets for the reduction of major pollutants in the upcoming 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) as the nation strives to realize its green goals, a senior official said.

Two new pollution indicators, nitrogen oxide - which is mainly discharged from power plants and vehicles - and ammonia nitrogen - a major measure of water quality - will be added to the emission control list for the next five years, said Gao Dongsheng, deputy director of the department of energy conservation and resources utilization within the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

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China fixed targets for reducing energy consumption and pollution in its last plan. The 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP. It also called for a 10 percent reduction in the total discharge of major pollutants.

It was expected that the discharge of "chemical oxygen demand" (COD), a main indicator of pollution in water, and sulfur dioxide (SO2), the major cause of air pollution, would go down by 10 percent as a result of the last Five-Year Plan.

"However, emission controls on more major pollutants, especially those that have a major impact on the environment, public health and climate change, should be included in the new plan and more details are on the way," Gao said.

Another specific plan for heavy-metal pollution control is also expected to be published soon, he added.

By the end of 2009, China reported it had already realized its SO2 reduction goal - one year ahead of schedule. The reduction percentage reached 13.14, according to official figures.

But to achieve the total target of emission control within this year - the final year of the 11th Five-Year Plan - the government is under great pressure, Gao said.

"In the first five months of 2010, as the economy recovered gradually, many industries restarted their businesses and caused an increase in energy consumption, especially in the chemical industry," he said.

Also, many serious pollution-causing accidents happened in the first half of this year, which made the task of pollution control even tougher, he added.

Meanwhile, ammonia nitrogen and nitrogen oxide have become two more major pollutants in the country in recent years.

According to an environmental quality report for the first six months of this year, released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, more than half of the water in China is now below the national water quality standard. Ammonia nitrogen is one of the major pollutants.

"It was caused by the massive increase in industrial wastewater, animal waste coming from the livestock industry, as well as domestic wastewater in urban areas, which are all disposed of improperly and discharged into our waterways," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-governmental group based in Beijing.

"The government should expand its control scope in future, not only focusing on major pollutants, which already cause great pollution problems, but also looking at others, to prevent them from becoming serious in the future," he said.