From: Associated Press
Published September 20, 2006 12:00 AM

China Needs To Break Ties Between Polluting Industry, Local Officials

BEIJING — China needs to break ties between polluting industries and local officials if it is to succeed in cleaning up its badly tainted water supplies, the founder of a new environmental group said Tuesday.


The government also has to spend more on environmental enforcement and improve public accountability, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.


A report last month by China's parliament accused local officials of failing to enforce standards for fear of hurting industry. It said emissions of sulfur dioxide -- the chemical that causes acid rain -- are rising at a time when the government is promising to cut pollution.


"If we can't even enforce our environmental standards on the industrial polluters, how can we enforce them on our sewage plants who have close ties to authorities?" Ma said at a talk for foreign correspondents.


"There's a need to break interest links because ... those who benefit are included in the government structure. They can make decisions, but those who are affected -- the communities, the public -- are not effectively involved in this."


Ma's group launched a Web site this week called "China's Water Pollution Map." The site, http://www.ipe.org.cn/water , includes details from 30 of China's provinces and regions on water quality and chemical discharges, as well as a list of polluters.


The site is an unusual step for a nongovernmental group at a time when the communist government is trying to suppress public monitoring of official activities.


Chronic pollution and a string of industrial accidents have tainted most of China's rivers, lakes and canals. Some areas are suffering from critical water shortages.


Last month, China said it will spend 1 trillion yuan (US$125 billion; euro100 billion) to improve water treatment and recycling by 2010 to fight the mounting threat of urban water pollution.


Ma said research for his site showed that more than 100 cities have failed to provide any water pollution data.


He said authorities who are trying to improve water conditions before the 2008 Beijing Olympics face an uphill battle.


Because the capital is expanding "in a very rapid way, new buildings, new neighborhoods are discharging their waste and the facilities are not ready for those new sites," he said.


"Efforts have been made. Progress has been made," Ma said. "But the challenge is big."


Source: Associated Press


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