China Draws Line in Sand to End Pollution for Good
BEIJING China will rigorously enforce limits on industrial pollution as it seeks to rein in rampant pollution and tame frenetic economic growth, the nation's top environment official said.
Zhou Shengxian, head of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, said government efforts to cut sulphur dioxide and other pollutants belching into China's hazy skies were failing, the China Environment News reported on Wednesday.
Breakneck economic expansion was instead overwhelming official goals to cut emissions and energy use, he said in a speech to officials on Tuesday.
"The central leadership is treating reductions in energy use and major pollutant emissions as two major hard targets -- red lines that can't be crossed," he was quoted as saying.
Zhou urged environmental officials to latch on to the ruling Communist Party leadership's determination to cool the economy in a fresh effort to cut pollution.
"The party central leadership and State Council are using reduction of major pollutants as an important means to promote coordinated, sustainable development," he said, referring to China's cabinet.
China has promised to clean its dirty skies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has made green development a key theme of his administration.
But Zhou said giddy investment in steel mills, cement plants, coal-fired power stations and other emissions-heavy industries was defeating pollution limits. He promised a campaign to vet planned projects, especially those with investment of 100 million yuan ($12.5 million) or more.
China has become the world's top emitter of acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide, with discharges rising 27 percent from 2000 to 2005, mostly from coal-burning power stations, SEPA officials said earlier this month.
Zhou said estimates from 17 Chinese provinces indicated that discharges grew another 5.8 percent last year.
"We must face up to the fact that in the first half of the year emissions of major pollutants nationwide didn't fall, but rose," Zhou said.
"Investment in some pollution-related industries accelerated," he added, noting investment in coal mining and processing grew 45.7 percent compared to the first half of last year.
But the government's determination to tame growth -- which hit 11.3 percent in the second quarter compared to the year-earlier period -- was an opportunity for environmental enforcers, Zhou said.
Wen has ordered local governments to establish accountability rules for implementing caps on sulphur dioxide and other pollutants, and demanded that local officials face inspections for pollution control, Zhou said.
"Implementing reduction goals for major pollutants is the key focus of our work in the second half of the year," he said, warning officials that they should not assume the government's five-year plan for reining in pollution gave them ample time. ($1=7.981 Yuan)