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Drinking Water Gets Top Priority in New Plan

The government has made the securing of drinking water resources a top priority and plans to significantly raise fines for water polluters.

The security of drinking water and purification of key rivers and lakes, together with major pollution and emissions control and urban waste treatment measures, were highlighted in the country's 11th Five-Year (2006-10) Plan of Environmental Protection, which was officially released yesterday.

The total investment in environmental protection during the five years will cost 1.35 percent of GDP during the same period, the State Council, said yesterday in a statement on its website,

Investment will focus on treating water and air pollution, solid waste, nuclear, radioactive and agricultural waste, and capacity-building, it said.

Market instruments will also be introduced to raise funds for the big clean up.

The plan follows the principle that industrial polluters will bear the cost of any clean up, while the authorities will use tax reforms to discourage waste and pollution.

Price mechanisms that reflect the cost of treating emissions and waste will also be used.

It is estimated that more than 75 billion yuan (US$10.2 billion) collected from pollution and emission charges under the scheme will be used to treat waste.

Another draft regulation released yesterday and aimed at addressing water pollution saw the maximum fines for individuals or companies that discharge highly toxic pollutants into drinking water resources raised by five times to 500,000 yuan, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) also stated that those who dump industrial residue or urban waste into drinking water resources, or store solid waste or other pollutants below the highest water line along the banks or at the banks of rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs, face a fine of up to 200,000 yuan, 20 times the current amount.

Restrictions on fines for companies held responsible for water pollution accidents will also be lifted.

Fines for such businesses will vary from 20 percent to 30 percent of the direct economic loss according to the severity of the incident, Xinhua reported.

Companies should bear all the costs for containing accidents. And those found responsible for serious water pollution will be closed, the SEPA said.

(China Daily November 27, 2007)

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