By Li Fangchao(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-13 05:21

The environment situation in the country is reaching a "critical point," the head of the environmental watchdog said over the weekend.

"More and more environmental problems are beginning to pop up," Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told the annual meeting of the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development (CCICED).

"In some places, environmental problems have affected people's health and social stability; and damaged our international image."

More than half of the country's rivers are severely polluted, and about a third of the territory affected by acid rain, Zhou noted.

Established in 1992, CCICED consists of leading domestic and overseas environmental experts and has been successful in advising high-level officials and assisting decision-makers to better understand the links between environmental protection and economic development.

To meet energy consumption targets, Lu Zhongwu, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, advised a careful scan of GDP growth goals set by local governments.

The central government has set a target of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 per cent and cut major pollutants by 10 per cent by 2010. Many local governments have set double-digit growth targets, much higher than the country's projected 7.5 per cent in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

CCICED said SEPA does not have sufficient administrative authority in policy planning, implementation and co-ordination with related agencies; and urged the government to upgrade the watchdog to cabinet level.

(China Daily 11/13/2006 page1)