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Bad pollution report spurs China into action
23/5/2007 9:27

Bad air, polluted rivers and contaminated water supplies mean China must ban projects that damage the environment, officials said yesterday.

As the environment ministry said pollution across the country was getting worse, China signed five joint agreements yesterday with the European Union, as the United Nations marked International Biodiversity Day.

"We should firmly forbid projects which damage the environment or cause pollution in the construction process," said Wang Xiaoqing, a vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

"Biodiversity should be regarded as a key performance indicator," he said at the signing ceremony for the grants.

SEPA said despite efforts to alter priorities, the situation was not improving.

Although air quality in some cities was better, in other places "foul air emissions are beyond acceptable limits," SEPA Vice Minister Pan Yue said in a quarterly assessment posted on the ministry's Website (

Worsening air and water pollution and frequent use of food additives and pesticides made cancer the top killer in China last year, according to health experts.

Several major rivers and lakes are clogged with industrial waste, officials admitted.

Pollution worsened in many parts of the country in the first quarter of the year, according to nationwide monitor results.

Pan said: "The improved air quality in some cities is absolutely no reason for complacency because foul air emissions are beyond acceptable limits in other cities."

Rivers 'critical'

Eight sandstorms from north China helped produce an additional 13 days of clear skies and fresh air for each city, reducing the size of airborne particles.

China's major water systems including the Yangtze River and Yellow River remained "mildly polluted," with no obvious alteration in water quality in general, Pan said.

An earlier report on Yangtze River protection and development said more than 600 kilometers of the river are in critical condition, and pollution, damming and too many boats have caused a dramatic decline in Yangtze aquatic life.

A recent secret SEPA investigation of 82 polluting factories along the Songhuajiang River found more than 80 percent of them had released pollutants exceeding national standards.

The quality of water sources for major Chinese cities monitored by SEPA also worsened in the first three months, Pan said.

SEPA is, however, fighting the problems. Companies that discharge pollution above national standards will have to make the information public, in a bid to boost the transparency of environment information. Penalties will range up to 100,000 yuan.

SEPA's director Zhou Shengxian has announced a new automated network to monitor the country's key polluters by 2008. Main polluters account for 65 percent of China's industrial waste. The network will also monitor urban sewage disposal plants.