Green watchdog fears storms backlash

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am

A senior watchdog official has raised concerns over the environmental impact of recent severe snowstorms, including possible damage from the use of a snow-melting agent in Guangdong.

Authorities had yet to wrap up the assessment of environmental damage from the worst snow disaster in five decades, State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) deputy director Pan Yue said yesterday.

'We have yet to receive a comprehensive report on the damage and losses caused by the snowstorms,' he said on the sidelines of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

'We are looking at the environmental impact of the use of a snow-melting agent in Guangdong and the damage to pollution monitoring facilities.'

Serious contamination of drinking water has been reported in northern Guangdong in the wake of the snowstorms, during which more than 600 tonnes of snow-melting agent containing industrial salt was used to thaw heavy snow and ice. Supplies to at least 10,000 people in Shaoguan were affected.

Mr Pan confirmed the report, which has previously been denied by Guangdong, noting the use of the agent might have environmental consequences.

He said repairing pollution monitoring facilities was a top priority for environmental authorities.

'I am really worried about the damage caused by the snowstorms to the online monitoring system of emissions of pollutants by industrial enterprises in the disaster-stricken region. Without the facilities, industrial polluters can discharge pollutants as much as they want,' he said.

The government has yet to have a full review of the disaster, which wreaked havoc on central, eastern and southern areas, killed 107 people and caused 150 billion yuan in direct economic losses.

'We didn't have time yet to think about why it happened unexpectedly and what we should have done before the heavy snowfalls,' Mr Pan said.

He also confirmed that Beijing had yet to resume the stalled green gross domestic product accounting process, which aimed to calculate the devastating ecological cost of the country's sizzling economic growth.

The project, spearheaded by Sepa, was shelved shortly before the five-yearly Communist Party national congress last year due to fierce resistance from local governments, and bureaucratic wrangling with planning and statistics authorities.