The top environment watchdog on Thursday announced that the
rehabilitation effort for the Songhua River, one of the most
heavily polluted rivers in the country, would remain in effect for
Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environment Protection
Administration (SEPA), acknowledged that more work needed to be
done to rehabilitate the river despite the unprecedented
anti-pollution effort that has been carried out so far.
The announcement follows the launch of a five-year
pollution-control plan early last year. That plan has a projected
budget of 26.6 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion).
Despite that initiative, Zhou said, some heavy-polluting
factories continued to operate unchecked and that pollution
emergencies were common in the Songhua River basin, posing a great
threat to the health of local people and the economy.
Data from 2006 suggest that ecological conditions in the Songhua
River and its tributaries have been deteriorating. The river's
tributaries were actually more polluted last year than in 2005.
Zhou warned at a work meeting on pollution-control efforts for
the Songhua River that it is "imperative" to let the Songhua River
"rest in peace and rehabilitate itself".
"It is time to alleviate the burden for this debilitated river,"
He said such an effort was badly needed, especially given that
the old industrial bases in northeast China had launched a
revitalization campaign to reform state-owned enterprises and
upgrade their technology.
"In this sense, strengthening pollution controls could also be
considered an important step towards adjusting the region's
economic structure and changing its growth model," he said.
The minister said a short-term objective would be to keep the
water quality of the Songhua River stable through next year and
then greatly improve it by 2010.
"In the long term, the ultimate goal must be to restore the
river's natural condition and ecology," he said.
Zhou said a vital measure would be to raise the "threshold" of
the approval standards for industrial projects.
During the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), projects that
discharge heavy metals or organic pollutants that do not easily
degrade into the river will be strictly banned, he said.
Energy-intensive, heavy-polluting industries like steel and
chemical production and smelting will be strictly controlled to
prevent pollutants from finding their way into the river.
And Zhou said the SEPA would work faster to eliminate all the
small-scale paper mills in the basin and urge the construction of
more waste-water processing plants.
The basin of the 1,900-km Songhua River spreads to Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region,
representing a combined population of 62 million people.
(China Daily May 11, 2007)