Tough warning on pollution of rivers, lakes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am

The mainland's top environmental watchdog has warned that worsening pollution of major rivers and lakes poses a daunting challenge to Beijing's ability to rule and achieve social harmony.

The tough warning and a name-and-shame crackdown on industrial polluters of the Yangtze, Yellow, Huai and Hai rivers follows new setbacks in Beijing's ambitious drive to cut pollution and energy consumption, in the first half of this year, and recent water crises in several heavily populated regions.

State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) deputy director Pan Yue named and shamed six cities, two counties, five industrial zones and 38 polluting enterprises in eight provinces along the four rivers, according to Sepa's website.

He said that except for projects related to pollution control and recycling, Sepa would halt the approval process for all new industrial projects in the cities, counties and industrial areas unless they took immediate action to meet environmental standards within three months.

Quoting the latest national survey on water quality, Mr Pan said the drinking water sources of six cities - Chaohu and Bengbu in Anhui , Baiyin in Gansu , Weinan in Shaanxi , Bayannaoer in Inner Mongolia and Zhoukou in Henan - and Hejin and Xiangfan counties in Shanxi , were heavily polluted.

Five industrial parks in Anhui, Gansu, Hebei , Henan and Shandong did not have fresh water due to appalling pollution.

'Despite algal blooms on Chao Lake in Anhui every summer, enterprises are still discharging large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which has increased risks of algal outbreaks,' he said.

An algal outbreak in Tai Lake in neighbouring Jiangsu left more than 2 million people in Wuxi without clean tap water for days last month.

Public discontent over local governments' poor handling of the crisis prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to inspect the situation at the weekend. He admitted an embarrassing failure to control pollution in Tai, Chao and Dian lakes despite billions of yuan spent over the past decade.

Mr Pan said the fight against water pollution had 'become a severe test of the government's ability to rule, carry out macroeconomic-control policies and promote social harmony'.

Mu Guangfeng, who is in charge of Sepa's environmental assessments, hailed the latest campaign as pointing in the direction for anti-pollution campaigns in the future.

'We must face the harsh reality now since our development in many areas has exceeded the environmental capacity limits,' he warned.

However, Wang Canfa, an environmental expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, said Sepa's crackdown was unlikely to affect projects worth less than 200 million yuan that were subject to approval by local environmental offices. 'It will not achieve a good result if law enforcement remains poor,' Professor Wang cautioned.

We must face reality since development has exceeded the environmental capacity limits

Mu Guangfeng, Sepa official in charge of environmental assessments