The State Council, or cabinet, has set a target of 2012 for purifying China's third-largest freshwater lake, the Taihu Lake.
This decision came in a regular meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, in which the council approved a package solution to the environment at the lake, which is in east China's Jiangsu Province.
The lake's catchment area covers the Yangtze River Delta, one of the most advanced areas in China.
An algae outbreak at the end of May 2007 rendered tap water undrinkable for about 10 days, affecting more than 1 million residents of Wuxi City in Jiangsu Province.
About 30 million people in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and the city of Shanghai rely on the Taihu Lake for drinking water.
According to the State Council's target, excessive blue-green algae in the lake should be controlled and the water quality of the sources in the lake's catchment area should be improved to class III, the middle level of a five-class water category in China, by 2012.
To achieve this goal, the council urged local governments to make the supply of potable water a priority and enforce tougher pollution control.
Local governments should also strive to restore the lake's ecological system, especially in terms of wetland recovery, the cabinet ordered.
The cabinet also approved a draft regulation on protecting historical and cultural cities, towns and villages, stating that local administrations were forbidden to misuse relics or modify them without permission.
(Xinhua News Agency April 3, 2008)