China / Society

China tightening pollution control in key rivers, lakes

By WANG QIAN ( Updated: 2012-05-04 18:45

As the country witnesses a soaring number of water pollution accidents, China is strengthening pollution controls in key rivers and lakes this year, Zhou Shengxian, minister of environmental protection, said on May 4.

Statistics from the Ministry of Environmental Protection showed nearly half of the environmental accidents from 2008 to 2010 were caused by water pollution.

Zhou emphasized in the 14th Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting in Beijing on May 4 that China's economic development will not sacrifice the environment and people's health.

The Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting involving China, Japan and South Korea has been held annually since 1999. Through the meeting, the three countries aim to take a leading role in regional environmental management and contribute to global environmental improvement.

The 12th Five-Year Environmental Protection Plan (2011-2015) also mentioned pollution control in key rivers and lakes, saying that by 2015, the water quality in key rivers such as the Yellow River and Bohai Bay will be improved.

The key rivers and lakes are distributed across 23 provinces and regions, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The draft of a national plan on pollution control in key rivers and lakes said about 292 billion yuan ($46 billion) will be invested in 4,991 pollution control projects along key rivers and lakes.

Before 2015, most factories in coastal areas will be upgraded to meet strict environment protection and pollutant discharge standards, according to the draft.

It said the main polluters in coastal areas are factories involving papermaking, food processing, beverage producing, coal mining, textile and chemical plants.

Ling Jiang, deputy director of the department of pollution prevention and control under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said earlier that rapid urbanization and industrialization are triggering the country’s increasing environmental accidents.

In a recent case in January, a toxic cadmium spill in Longjiang River posed a potential threat to the water supply in the downstream city of Liuzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The city has a population of 3.7 million.

Cadmium is a highly toxic heavy metal used in batteries, electroplating and industrial paints. Exposure can lead to fatal liver and kidney damage.

In February, a leak of phenol from a South Korean cargo ship put the water supply in Zhenjiang city, with a population of 3 million in East China’s Jiangsu province, at risk.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an organic compound soluble in water. It can irritate the eyes and skin, and if absorbed in large amounts can damage the liver and kidneys.

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