Pollution control targets not met

By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-13 06:52

The government pledged to do a better job on pollution control after admitting yesterday that the country failed to meet emission reduction targets last year.

"We are optimistic that we can meet the target by taking a series of concrete measures," Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a high-level conference mapping out green efforts in Beijing.

The goal was to reduce Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) a water pollution index and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 2 percent last year as part of an ambitious plan to reduce them by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010.

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But last year, SO2 emissions increased nearly 463,000 tons, 1.8 percent higher than the previous year, said Fan Yuansheng, director of the pollution control department of the SEPA.

COD reached 14.31 million tons 173,000 tons, or 1.2 percent, more than in 2005.

Some measures, such as the installation of sulphur dioxide scrubbing facilities and shutting down small steel, cement and power plants, have shown good results as the growth of the main pollutants in 2006 slowed from the previous year.

According to Fan, China aims to reduce its SO2 and COD emissions by 3.2 million tons and 1.23 million tons this year.

But according to a report provided by a SEPA experts' group, if China's economy grows by 9 percent this year, another 2.4 million tons of SO2 will be discharged and COD will increase by 0.9 million tons.

Some leading environmental scientists, such as Zhou Dali and Hao Jiming, said that

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China's pollution levels will not start to go down in real terms until next year.

Emission cuts could be out of reach because of high economic growth, large amount of coal burning and low effective operation of treatment facilities, they said.

Last year, China's economy grew by 10.7 percent. Consumption of coal increased by nearly 230 million tons, resulting in the release of 2.8 million tons of sulphur dioxide from coal burning, SEPA figures show.

Meanwhile the output of paper products, one of the major sources of COD, reached more than 58 million tons, an increase of 20 percent over 2005.

The government also planned to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent by 2010, or 4 per cent last year.

No official figures are available to indicate if the target has been met but earlier reports said it was unlikely.

(China Daily 02/13/2007 page1)

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