From: Associated Press
Published April 6, 2006 12:00 AM

China's Waterways Facing Major Chemical Pollution Risks

SHANGHAI, China — China's major waterways are threatened with severe pollution because of poor planning and a lack of waste treatment facilities, a top environmental official said in remarks published by state media Thursday.


A review of 127 major chemical and petrochemical projects found many were located too close to major bodies of water, the official Xinhua News Agency cited Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Agency, as saying.


"These environmental risks cannot be solved within a short time, as the cost of relocation of the projects is too high," Pan was quoted as saying.


The inspections of the chemical projects, prompted by an explosion last November at a chemical plant that released tons of toxic chemicals in the Songhua River in northeastern China, found 20 with serious environmental safety problems, Pan said.


The projects included oil refining, ethylene and methanol factories involving 60.6 billion yuan (US$7.6 billion; euro6.2 billion) in investments. Eleven were located along the Yangtze River, one on the Yellow River and two at Daya Bay, near Hong Kong.


The government has ordered those plants to take immediate actions to fix the problems, and allocated 1.62 billion yuan (US$202 million; euro165 million) to fund improvements, the report said.


The environmental agency has suspended approval of 44 projects with a total planned investment of 149.5 billion yuan (US$18.7 billion; euro15.3 billion) because of their locations.


China needs to further strengthen pre-construction environmental assessment procedures to prevent future problems, Pan said.


The environmental agency has repeatedly seen its attempts to close down or stop construction of projects accused of violating environmental safeguards overridden or ignored.


The government earlier reported that China has suffered 76 more water pollution accidents since the November spill into the Songhua River.


Some areas have reported progress in cleaning up heavily polluted waters, but most canals, rivers and lakes are severely tainted by industrial, agricultural and household pollution. Only a bit more than a third of the 3.7 billion tons of waste water discharged by China's huge cities each year is treated.


Source: Associated Press


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