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Pollution control far from satisfactory
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-09 22:16

Water pollution control goals of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) in major river regions are far from being reached, warned Xie Zhenhua, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, Sunday.

Among the 2,418 projects designed for water pollution control in major river regions, only 777 have been completed and 673 are underway.

The rest, or 40 per cent, have not been launched at all.

To date, about 64.5 billion yuan (US$7.8 billion) has been invested in the projects, while the total planned investment stands at 192.6 billion yuan (US$23 billion), Xie said at a national conference on water pollution control in major river regions in Wuxi, East China's Jiangsu Province.

The investment includes 14.7 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) from the central government and 49.8 billion yuan (US$6 billion) from local governments.

Major river regions include the three rivers and three lakes region, which refers to the regions along and around the Huaihe, Haihe and Liaohe rivers and Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi lakes. Those regions cover 11 provinces as well as Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai municipalities.

The regions also include the eastern line of the South-to-North Water Project, the country's largest water diversion project, the area around the Three Gorges Project and the Bohai Sea rim region.

Despite some progress in achieving the control goals, in half the monitoring points of the three rivers and three lakes region water quality does not meet the requirements of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, Xie said.

Ecology in the Haihe and Liaohe rivers is seriously unbalanced with the West Liaohe River in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region dry for five consecutive years.

Some river branches in the Three Gorges Project region have even seen worsening water quality, he added.

Xie attributed the current unfavourable situation to some local governments' blindness in solely pursuing economic growth, the insufficiency of investment and a failure in phasing out outdated techniques and polluting companies.

He said sewage and waste generated by daily life and agricultural production also contribute to the problem. For example, the discharge of sewage in cities has been increasing rapidly, but the construction of sewage treatment plants lags far behind.

In addition, Xie said the country's legal system cannot punish polluters severely enough while grass-roots environmental protection authorities are not well armed to discover problems such as illegal waste discharges.

Xie urged local governments to launch the planned projects by 2005 and seek funds for the projects.

At the same time, local prices for sewage treatment need to be raised so that the cost of treatment plants can be covered and the plants operate normally.

Xie also called for stronger environment impact assessments for development plans and construction projects and promotion of energy efficient techniques.

The development of a circular economy in the country is the ground floor for pollution control, he added.

The circular economy is based on the most efficient use of resources and the most effective protection of the environment.

At the national conference, Xie called on all localities to learn from the experience of the Taihu Lake regions, where water pollution control goals are well reached.

About 90 per cent of the control projects designed for the Taihu Lake regions have been completed or are under construction.

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