Pollution of Lake Tai worse despite cleanup campaign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2008, 12:00am

The pollution of Lake Tai, where a massive algal outbreak cut freshwater supplies for millions of people last summer, has worsened despite emergency cleanup efforts in the past year, a State Council meeting concluded yesterday.

The warning, which came ahead of the one-year anniversary of the pollution disaster at Lake Tai, on the border of Jiangsu and Zhejiang , has prompted concern over the possible reappearance of one of the mainland's worst pollution crises in years, which forced millions in Wuxi to go without tap water for days.

Highlighting the severe pollution of Lake Tai, a statement from the meeting vowed to take all possible means to avoid last summer's water crisis in booming industrial cities and counties near the lake, according to state television. Authorities would give priority to 'preventing the safety of the drinking-water supply from being affected by foul, polluted water' from the lake, China Central Television reported.

The statement, worded in relatively mild language, appeared to be aimed at lowering public expectations of any improvement in the lake's quality.

Lake Tai - China's third-largest freshwater lake, the banks of which are home to a cluster of industrial cities - is expected to see a return of the blue-green algal bloom that last summer affected more than 2 million people.

The disaster prompted a public outcry over the embarrassing failure of development-minded local authorities to rein in industrial polluters in the lake over the past decade, and a pledge from Premier Wen Jiabao to clean up the lake.

It has been listed as a priority in the government-led cleanup campaign targeting major waterways, after the Songhua River, one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

Thousands of polluting factories around the lake, which were found to have discharged huge amounts of untreated pollutants, have been shut and billions of yuan has been earmarked to improve the quality of the water in the lake and its tributaries.

Former Jiangsu party secretary Li Yuanchao, who was promoted to head the Communist Party's organisation department in the wake of the algal bloom, made a daring promise to clean up the lake in three years, even at the expense of reducing the booming province's economic growth.

But yesterday's State Council meeting, chaired by Mr Wen, admitted that despite the recent harsh clampdown, the quality of the lake had continued to deteriorate.

The meeting set the goal of controlling the algal blooms, which have occurred in the lake every year over the past decade, and making initial improvements in water quality by 2012. It urged local authorities to expand the diversion of water from the Yangtze River, which began last year to dilute the pollution-hit lake.

It also appealed to the public to take part in the cleanup campaign.