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Environmental Watchdog Removes 5 More Areas from Blacklist

China's environmental watchdog removed three cities and two industrial zones from its blacklist only a week after taking out five other areas.

It leaves only one county and two industrial zones on the list: Hejin county in north China's coal base of Shanxi, Lanzhou High-Tech Industrial Development Zone in Gansu and Puyuan Economic Development Zone in Henan.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said in a press release on Sunday that the local governments of the five areas recently scratched from the blacklist have "placed great importance and worked out solutions to correct the long-lingering pollution problems".

The five included Baiyin city in northwest China's Gansu Province, Chaohu and Bengbu cities in east China's Anhui Province, Handan Economic Development Zone in north China's Hebei Province and Shenxian Industrial Park in east China's Shandong Province.

According to the SEPA investigation, the water quality in a heavily-polluted main river channel in Baiyin city has considerably improved and the municipal government has stopped a local factory from billowing out chemical fog into the air.

Bengbu city has closed small chemical workshops along its two main river channels and provided clean drinking water to local residents, the SEPA said.

In Chaohu city, Wanwei Group, a major polluter of a local water resource, has been suspended from operation and forced to rectify its waste system after paying a default waste fare of 11.74 million yuan (US$1.56 million) and fine of 500,000 yuan (US$66,000).

SEPA will keep an eye on these five areas to make sure they continue to do things right, the statement said.

The administration put local authorities in six cities, two counties and five industrial zones - all in the vicinity of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, the Huaihe River and the Haihe River - on a blacklist in early July after a nationwide monitoring network found that water running through these cities and counties was "heavily polluted".

They were told to immediately suspend construction projects that have not undergone environmental assessments and were only given three months to fix their "environmental problems".

SEPA also refused to assess the environmental impact for all projects from these areas except those relevant to waste processing and recycling, which meant that the paper work of all these projects had to be suspended.

"It proved that such campaign was effective to push local governments into action," said the statement.

On September 24, the SEPA dropped the first batch of areas from the blacklist.

But Pan Yue, SEPA vice director, said the campaign was just a special administrative measure to curb pollution, and it is far from enough just to close some projects. A comprehensive environmental protection system including environmental assessment and economic policies should be established to limit the development of industries with high energy consumption and high pollution, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency October 3, 2007)

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