The push for economic development has seen a sharp rise in the number of environmental accidents on the mainland this year, according to the mainland's top green watchdog. The State Environment Protection Administration said it had received 49 reports of environmental accidents since January this year, the People's Daily reported yesterday. Of these accidents, four were classified as 'major' - including a spill from a paper factory in Inner Mongolia which affected 100 hectares of farmland and 57 households, according to a statement posted on Sepa's website. In January, a spill from a fertiliser plant in Chongqing left 30,000 people without water for two days. A spokesman for Sepa blamed the surge in the number of environmental accidents on the drive for economic expansion by mainland enterprises. 'Some enterprises used illegal methods to discharge waste because they want to maximise their profit,' the spokesman said. 'The local environmental departments must strengthen their control of waste discharge and punish those who break the rules. Factories that cannot be upgraded should be shut down.' Twenty-two of the 49 reported cases were caused by industrial accidents and 12 by illegal waste discharge. Traffic accidents caused 11 environmental accidents, according to Sepa.