Businesses in the Taihu Lake area will have to pay heavy fees to discharge pollution into the lake and nearby waterways this year, officials from the Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said Thursday.
The new regulation, approved by the State Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Finance last month, is the first of its kind in the country. It will be implemented initially in Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, Zhenjiang and Nanjing, all in Jiangsu Province.
The move is part of a long-awaited campaign to limit the amount of pollution pumped into the region's waterways.
Taihu Lake, which provides drinking water for about 30 million people in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang as well as Shanghai Municipality, has been heavily polluted by industrial waste, pesticides and fertilizer since the 1980s.
The situation deteriorated in May last year when the lake suffered from a massive blue-green algae outbreak that threatened the water supply to more than 1 million residents of Wuxi.
The government closed down some 2,800 small chemical factories after the bloom appeared.
The water quality in the Taihu Lake area is expected to improve as the new rule takes effect, prodding companies to clean up their operations to avoid fines, an official surnamed Gao, with the publicity and education department of the provincial environmental protection bureau, said.
The new regulation includes charges of 4,500 yuan ($620) per ton for increasing chemical oxygen demand, a measure of the amount of oxygen used in a chemical reaction caused by chemical waste in water, or double what it costs to treat polluted water.
Seven industries, including chemicals, textiles, iron and steel-making, and paper mills, which are believed to pose the biggest threat to water safety, will be subject to the fines.
Companies discharging more than their quota of pollution will face fines of up to 1 million yuan. However, those that do not use up their quotas are welcome to trade the difference with other companies.