Provinces worst affected by water pollution have signed a pledge with the central government to reduce polluting discharges significantly in the next five years.
The move was part of Beijing's campaign to curb rampant industrial pollution, which has posed serious threats to drinking water supplies, and ensure that a national target to cut pollution by 10 per cent by 2010 could be met, state media reported yesterday.
The nine regions that signed the agreement with the State Environmental Protection Administration on Friday included the country's affluent coastal provinces - Guangdong, Jiangsu , Zhejiang and Shandong - the People's Daily reported.
The other five regions - Liaoning , Hebei , Henan , Hunan and Guangxi - were also said to face an arduous task in cutting polluting discharges and cleaning up polluted rivers. The report did not explain why the nine areas were listed as priorities in the campaign.
Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan blamed decades of breakneck economic growth for causing environmental damage that had yet to be repaired.
'Water pollution has become a main factor hindering economic development, threatening public health and affecting social stability,' he told a national conference, according to the newspaper report.
Enterprises branded as safety risks sitting on main waterways have been urged to cut the chemical oxygen demand in waste water - a parameter that measures river or lake pollution levels - by at least 10 per cent in the next five years.
Mr Zeng said local authorities must shoulder the bulk of the responsibility for the cleanup efforts.
The vice-premier warned that without co-operation from local governments, the agreement and other measures would not be effective in honouring Premier Wen Jiabao's commitment to the environment.