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Local Govts to Help Cut Water Pollution

Nine provinces and regions have signed a commitment with China's top environmental watchdog to reduce water pollution by 10 percent by 2010, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Speaking at a recent televised conference of the State Council on pollution control, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan urged local governments to display "absolute determination" to solve the problem of water pollution by fulfilling the commitment.

China plans to cut its COD (chemical oxygen demand) emissions by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10). As a typical indicator used to measure water pollution, COD is defined as the quantity of oxygen required to decompose all organic matter. In 2005, the country released more than 14 million tons of COD.The nine provinces and regions, including provinces of Hebei and Guangdong, contain important rivers or lakes or have serious water problems.

Guangdong Province was required to reduce its COD emission to 940,000 tons by 2010, a 12 percent reduction from 2005.

Local governments are urged to restructure industries so that factories discharging excessive industrial waste are gradually reformed or shut down.

Waste discharge surveillance should be established for more than 3,200 key firms and more advanced pollution control equipment should be established for new firms.

Faster construction of sewage plants in urban areas was called for during the teleconference. By 2010, more than 70 percent of urban wastewater and 60 percent of household wastewater should be treated through these plants.

"It is a signal showing the central government's resolve to solve the water pollution problem," said an environmental expert who refused to give his name.

"But the enforcement measure is not clear according to information published. What if the local government cannot fulfil the commitment? And if the consequences are not serious, then the effectiveness of commitment will be undermined."

"The environmental prices we have paid for rapid economic growth are too high," Zeng said, according to the Xinhua report.

"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."

(China Daily July 25, 2006)

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