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China Making Little Progress On Pollution: Legislature

China is the world's biggest sulfur dioxide polluter.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 27, 2006
China has failed to control water and air pollution, with the problems worsening, according to a report from the country's top legislature, state media said Sunday. Air pollution control goals set by the government were not only being missed, but air quality deteriorated, said the report released over the weekend by the National People's Congress, according to the Beijing Morning Post.

Sulfur dioxide discharges -- usually from coal-burning power stations -- amounted to 25.5 million tons last year, a 27 percent increase from 2000, making China the world's biggest sulfur dioxide polluter, according to the study.

Coking plants, another culprit, were routinely violating national emissions standards, with nearly all of the 680 plants in China's coal mining region Shanxi guilty of excessive discharge, the study said.

This has contributed to one-third of China's landmass being bathed in acid rain last year, posing problems to soil and food safety, the Xinhua news agency cited the report as saying.

Of 696 counties surveyed, half suffered from a serious acid rain problem, with rainfall in some areas being 100 percent acid rain, it said.

Meanwhile, water pollution control tasks set by the government for 2001-2005 also have not been fulfilled, with waste water discharged reaching 52.4 billion tons in 2005, a 26 percent increase from 2000, Xinhua cited Sheng Huaren, vice chairman of the legislature's standing committee, saying.

He submitted the report at a committee meeting on Saturday.

Water at nearly one-third of monitoring points across the country, including major rivers, remains seriously polluted, according to the report.

To reduce production costs, many enterprises do not treat waste water properly or at all, Sheng said.

Local governments also were to blame, with 278 of 661 Chinese cities lacking sewage treatment plants, while some plants do not operate fully due to inadequate pipe networks.

Sheng blamed the deteriorating environment on local governments' blind pursuit of economic growth.

"It is especially worrying that most local governments base economic growth on energy consuming industries, disregarding the environment's capacity to sustain industrial expansion," Sheng said.

The study was compiled after legislators visited 15 provinces and municipalities in May.

It also found that local officials and firms often underestimated solid waste discharge and cheated on the figures for fear of being punished, Sheng said.

Official statistics showed that only 35 percent of household garbage was properly treated to prevent it polluting soil and underground water.

Accumulation of methane in some garbage dumps has led to explosions.

China's environmental problems were highlighted in last November when around 100 tons of the carcinogens benzene and nitrobenzene poured into its Songhua River after an explosion at a chemical factory in Jilin province.

Water supplies for millions of people living along the river were suspended for days.

A car accident Friday dumped the corrosive liquid caustic soda into a river, threatening water supply for 100,000 residents in Shaanxi province, but officials Sunday said they have successfully contained and diluted the spill.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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