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Water Pollution Challenges Drift from Coastal to Inland Areas

While China's booming coastal cities are stepping up efforts to protect the environment, its inland provinces are producing more and more industrial waste.

"Even though China's coastal provinces are still the major source of sewage, inland provinces have begun to top the list of industrial waste producers," said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Ma said since governments of coastal cities have taken measures to reduce pollution, some industries that cause heavy pollution have moved to the less developed inland areas.

According to a database launched recently by Ma's institution, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southwest China's Sichuan Province and north China's Hebei Province have been since 2004 the top three places that have the most organic waste in their waterways.

Another inland province Hunan ranks first in discharging poisonous pollutants such as lead, chrome, cadmium and other toxic by-products of industrial production, according the database.

"I am really shocked at how seriously and rapidly the inland waters are being polluted," said Ma.

The database, named China Water Pollution Map, provides information on water quality and the sources of water pollution discharge in 300 cities across China. It also lists more than 2,500 enterprises accused of causing water pollution.

Ma, who has been tracing China's water problems for years, said controlling the country's water pollution is not a technical problem and local governments can afford the mechanism.

Ma criticized local officials for turning a blind eye to the environment in the pursuit of economic profit.

"Under the protection of local authorities, some enterprises wantonly ignore their responsibilities and the cost of protecting the environment protection has been transferred from those enterprises to local people," he said.

The scholar also points that many sewage treatment plants, which were built with heavy public financing are not in operation.

Ma said local governments don't want to spend money to run the sewage treatment plants. "Some environmental protection facilities have become image projects."

To solve the problem, Ma said public awareness of environmental protection needs to be improved. He also suggested that victims of environmental pollution should be included in the decision-making body.

Water pollution has become a serious problem in China. Nearly 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted to various degrees.

China discharged 52.4 billion tons of waste water in 2005, up 26 percent form 2000. Only 52 percent of the waste water was treated before being discharged.

(Xinhua News Agency September 27, 2006)

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