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China vows to keep its environment clean
Updated: 2005-02-22 09:31

Emerging economic giant China vowed to protect its environment and clean up existing damage despite the challenges posed by its rapid development.

Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, the highest level foreign official attending the annual conference of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) board of governors, said on Monday that Beijing was committed to preserving its ecosystem.

"While the economy grows at a relatively high speed, the escalation of pollution has been checked and improvement is seen in the state of the ecosystem and environment in China," Zeng told the meeting.

China has registered an average 9.4 annual growth rate over the past 26 years, Zeng said, admitting that this posed enormous hurdles for Beijing in protecting its environment, particularly from pollution.

However, he insisted that Chinese authorities had already taken steps to improve the situation with the creation of pollution auditing and management mechanisms for industry.

"The environmental assessment regime must be strictly enforced," Zeng said. "Clean production technologies must be applied in every new project."

He said authorities would rigorously enforce the use of desulphfurising equipment at all coal-fired power plants and would promote the use of clear and renewable energy while taking steps to improve energy efficiency.

China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) is currently engaged in a major crackdown on lax environmental regulation that was a hallmark of the country's quarter century of spectacular economic growth.

In January, SEPA ordered a halt to 30 large-scale construction projects nationwide for failing to file environmental impact statements.

The crackdown has emerged as the central government tries to rein in growth and curb investment, especially in the power sector.

The agency has threatened to shut down scores of coal-fired power plants whose emissions do not comply with air quality requirements.

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