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Major Waterways Threatened by Chemical Pollution

China's major waterways are facing serious pollution risks due to poor planning and location of chemical projects and a lack of proper waste treatment, a senior government official said Wednesday.

After a chemical plant discharged toxic pollutants into the northeastern Songhua River last year, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) launched a comprehensive review of chemical and petrochemical projects near major water areas.

The results revealed high pollution risks due to the improper location of chemical plants, said Pan Yue, SEPA deputy director.

"These environmental risks cannot be solved within a short time, as the cost of relocation of the projects is too high," said Pan.

China's environmental protection departments inspected 127 chemical and petrochemical projects near major waterways.

They found 20 large projects with serious environmental safety problems, said Pan, adding that the projects, with a total investment of 60.57 billion yuan, included 11 along the Yangtze River, one on the Yellow River and two at the Daya Bay, involving the sectors of oil refining, ethylene and methanol.

The administration has ordered those in charge of the projects to take immediate measures to address the problems.

An additional 1.62 billion yuan has been allocated for environmental safety facilities for the 20 projects.

But pre-construction environmental evaluation and protection measures were needed to avoid future industrial pollution risks, said Pan.

Seventy-six water pollution accidents have been reported in China since the Songhua River accident, exceeding the total last year.

The SEPA has suspended approval of 44 projects, with a total investment of 149.47 billion yuan, because of their location.

(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2006)

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