China Says It Will Automate Monitoring of Big Polluters
BEIJING -- China plans to set up an automated system to monitor big polluters by 2008, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, underscoring government efforts to clean up the country's dirty air and water.
The fast-industrialising country also plans to introduce incentives for local officials to enforce pollution controls, as part of an effort to meet the national goal of cutting emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent by the end of the decade.
Eager to burnish its image before the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is coming under increased pressure from citizens tired of choking pollution and from an international community concerned that China will soon become the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
"We are optimistic we can meet the target by taking a series of concrete measures," Xinhua quoted Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), as saying. He referred to this year's goal of cutting sulphur dioxide emissions by 1.23 million tonnes, and reducing chemical oxygen demand, a measure of pollutants in surface water.
Many Chinese factories, smelters and power plants have bought equipment to minimise pollution from smokestacks, but are notorious for turning off the equipment as soon as government inspectors leave their gates.
Scrubbers and other equipment can be expensive to operate, or can reduce the energy efficiency of a plant, tempting owners to flout the rules.
Understaffed environmental bureaux lack the manpower or the clout to enforce compliance, since they often report to local governments that own stakes in local industry.
"China is now launching an automated project which, by the end of 2008, will closely monitor key polluters who account for 65 percent of the country's industrial waste," Zhou said.
The network will also monitor urban sewage disposal plants.
A new government assessment system would ensure that organisations or local officials that ignore pollution controls would face punishment, Zhou said.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has will lead a taskforce to ensure government targets are met, Xinhua said.
Last year, China failed to meet its target of a 2 percent reduction in the emission of pollutants. Sulphur dioxide emissions, which can cause acid rain, increased by 463,000 tonnes in China, 1.8 percent higher than the previous year, and chemical oxygen demand increased by 1.2 percent, SEPA said.
Plans were in place for assessing local government work on pollution control, in which authorities that fail to meet such targets would be punished by cuts in financial support from the central government, Zhou said.
Local officials' promotions could also be influenced by their efforts in reducing pollution.
"Environment indices will be publicised for public supervision," Zhou said. "Those who fabricate them will be dealt with appropriately."
Separately, the Ministry of Railways said emissions of sulphur dioxide from the railway sector would be capped at 41,818 tonnes in 2010, a drop of 10 percent from 2006, in a blueprint announced by Xinhua on Thursday.