Oil spills trigger environmental concerns

Updated: 2011-09-08 17:08


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BEIJING — The State Council, or China's Cabinet, warned on Sept 7 of serious environmental problems along the Bohai Bay in the wake of sea pollution caused by ConocoPhillips' oil spills.

The government should work to change the situation that has too many heavy industrial projects along the Bohai Bay and has caused heavy pollution, said a statement issued after the State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

The government will limit the construction of new petrochemical projects along the bay and ban any reclamation projects that could harm the local ecological balance, the statement said.

The Bohai Bay area has become one of the fast-growing industrial regions in China following the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas.

Provinces along the bay have an area of 2.11 million square km and a population of 290 million. The area reported a gross domestic product (GDP) of 12.07 trillion yuan ($1.86 trillion) in 2010, accounting for 30.3 percent of the country's total figure.

Water quality off the coast of the Bohai Bay has deteriorated, due to huge pollutants carried by rivers into the sea, and the coastal wetlands have disappeared fast because of large scale reclamation projects, the statement said.

The State Council pledged to rationalize waste water outlets and raise the standards of water quality in a bid to clean up water pollution and control the pollution sources.

Several other measures were announced in the statement, including injecting more freshwater into the sea, restoring wetlands along the beach, and establishing a warning system for environmental crisis and emergencies.

The statement stressed that local governments and enterprises must improve the awareness of their environmental responsibilities.

Oil spills at an offshore oil field run by US oil giant ConocoPhillips have polluted more than 5,500 square km of sea water in the Bohai Bay. The cause remains under investigation.

In the wake of several outbreaks of environmental pollution, the State Council stressed in the statement that the government should prioritize this issue.

It vowed to strictly punish companies and government departments in charge if any construction project commences without the assessment of its environmental impact.

Efforts must be made to prevent and treat heavy metal pollution, and the administration must ban the expansion of heavily-polluted projects and the construction of new ones, the statement said.

The State Council also plans to tighten the management of chemicals. It will assess environmental risks of chemical plants nationwide, especially those along the rivers and coasts, and raise the environmental requirements of such plants.

Environment issues in rural areas were also in the agenda. Villages suffering heavy pollution of earth and drinking water will be the focus, the statement said.

The government will work to educate farmers on how to process waste and sewage, properly apply pesticide and fertilizer in order to curb the pollution.

The environmental watchdog should also tighten the supervision over factories in rural areas, the statement said.