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Vice Premier Urges Efforts to Curb Water Pollution

Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan has ordered local governments to take effective measures to curb water pollution which remains a big threat to public health and social stability.

Speaking at a televised conference of the State Council on pollution control, Zeng asked local governments to display "absolute determination" to solve water pollution as the environment targets set for the next five years are looking increasingly difficult to attain.

The Chinese government has announced that it will invest 1.4 trillion yuan (US$175 billion) in environmental protection between 2006 and 2010. The money will be spent on water pollution control, urban air quality maintenance, solid waste disposal and soil erosion prevention.

"The environment prices we have paid for rapid economic growth are too high," Zeng said. "Excessive waste water is discharged, health hazards caused by water pollution frequently occur and many regions do not have a stable supply of drinking water."

At the tele-conference, Hebei and other eight provincial and regional governments signed liability letters with the State Environmental Protection Administration vowing to reduce water pollution.

Zeng said local governments should restructure industries so companies that discharge excessive industrial waste are gradually reformed or shut down.

Surveillance of waste discharge should be established for over 3,200 key firms and higher pollution control qualifications should be established for new firms, Zeng added.

Zeng also called for faster construction of sewage plants in urban areas. By 2010, more than 70 percent of urban waste water and 60 percent of household waste water should be treated through these plants, he said.

In addition, local governments should improve their ability to deal with health hazard emergencies in order to keep the risks of environmental crises to a minimum, Zeng said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 24, 2006)

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