Corruption to blame for worsening air quality
Updated: 2006-08-21 06:21

China's top environmental official has blamed corruption for frustrating environmental protection efforts and sparking a rise in air pollution, state media reported Sunday.

"It is clear the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection is coming to a head," Zhou Shengxian, director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

"Frauds in project approval were prominent, with many projects passing their environmental assessment without fulfilling the necessary criteria," Zhou told Xinhua.

In some counties, only 30 percent of projects were checked for pollution control measures before obtaining construction licenses, Zhou said.

The discharge of major pollutants in China increased in the first six months of 2006, with sulfur dioxide emissions up 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year, Zhou added. Specific figures for the other pollutants weren't given.

The government had pledged to reduce overall emissions by 2 percent in 2006, the report said.

Zhou said nearly half of China's new coal processing projects this year failed to set up desulfurization equipment, despite requirements to do so.

In 2005, China emitted 25.49 million tons of sulfur dioxide _ more than any other country in the world.

Zhou's remarks came amid public pressure for stronger action against rampant pollution that has undermined China's environment during 25 years of breakneck industrialization.

Attempts by the environmental agency to crack down on big polluters have generally failed.

The government says it plans to cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 10 percent over the next five years.

But the government said earlier this year it had failed to meet a similar goal to reduce emissions by 10 percent between 2000-2005.

Instead, emissions rose by 27 percent during that period.