A widely publicised effort to clean up the Huai River has failed, according to a whistle-blowing official who contradicted glowing reports published in the People's Daily. The three-year programme to rid the Huai River and its tributaries of pollutants endangering drinking water for 150 million people was hailed as a triumph when it ended in December. Last week, the People's Daily said the river met standards set by the State Council, meaning it was at least 'grade-three' quality - good enough for industrial use but not for drinking. But Professor Su Kiasheng, of Huainan Industrial College and a vice-chairman of Anhui's People's Political Consultative Conference, claimed in the Worker's Daily that the water was still seriously polluted. 'It is a long way from reaching the State Council's standards,' he wrote, adding that the discharge of pollutants last year more than doubled government targets. He said the river quality in Anhui province was grade five - the very lowest and unsuitable even for irrigation. Enterprises discharging waste into the river are reportedly responsible for economic losses totalling 50 million yuan (HK$47 million). Professor Su said he had just completed an investigation on the provinces of Henan, Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong, through which the Huai River flows. 'What the People's Daily reported is not true. Soon after the article ran, there was a serious dispute among the paper's staff. The People's Daily Shanghai bureau shares my views,' he said. 'To meet the State Council's targets, some provinces gave false figures and made false reports to the central Government. As a matter of fact, the pollution has not changed much, although some of the smaller factories have been ordered to halt production.' The People's Daily report boasted that what had taken other countries 20 years to do had been achieved in only a few years by mobilising the masses and closing more than 60,000 small enterprises. The Huai River is the most polluted of China's seven largest rivers. When it flooded in 1994, there were mass poisonings in Anhui and the destruction of fish stocks. Regulations to control pollution were drawn up in 1995. According to the plan, there should have been 52 water-treatment plants along the Huai River by the end of last year, but Professor Su claimed only six plants had been built. A few are under construction and might be completed by the end of this year or next. Professor Su complained that too many government departments at too many levels were involved in the project. He warned that the situation would worsen during the dry season when pollutants were concentrated.