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Chinese Premier Wants Action On Taihu Lake Pollution

Taihu Lake is the third-largest in China.
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) June 12, 2007
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has demanded action after a pollution crisis in China's third-largest lake led to the contamination of drinking water for millions, state press said Tuesday. "The pollution of Taihu Lake has sounded the alarm for us," various media outlets quoted Wen as telling an environmental meeting held by China's cabinet on Monday.

He asked the participants, including officials from central and local governments, environmental workers, scholars and researchers, to investigate the water crisis and come up with concrete measures to protect the lake.

A poisonous algae bloom in Taihu lake in late May contaminated water supplies for several days for more than 2.3 million people in eastern China's lakeside city of Wuxi.

The crisis -- the result of years of industrial pollution and untreated sewage discharge -- sparked panic hoarding of bottled water drinking supplies and again highlighted a nationwide water problem.

More than 70 percent of China's waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are contaminated by pollution, according to government figures.

Wen said although some efforts to reduce pollution at the lake had been made in recent years, "the problem had never been tackled at its root."

This month, authorities ordered towns around Taihu to shut down all polluting factories and meet new water emission standards by the end of June 2008.

Chemical factories that failed to do so would have operations suspended or shut down permanently, the report said.

Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, who also attended the conference, demanded the government ensure the safety of drinking water and environmental watchdogs step up their supervision of factories that discharged pollutants into Taihu Lake.

However, the most prominent Taihu anti-pollution campaigner, Wu Lihong, remains in jail after being arrested on bribery charges.

His wife has told AFP that local authorities framed Wu to end his environmental campaigning.

earlier related report
China's air, water pollution worsening
Air and water quality in Chinese cities is worsening despite a national push to reduce notorious pollution levels, the country's environment watchdog said in a new report.

Only 38 percent of 585 cities surveyed recently registered air quality that reached national health standards, down from about 45 percent in a 2005 study, the State Environmental Protection Administration report said.

Overall levels of water deemed to be healthy also slipped by 7.24 percent, the report said, providing no other details.

"The environment situation in the country's cities remains serious," it said. The report was released on Monday and highlighted in Tuesday's state-run press.

China, whose economic boom has given rise to massive and harmful pollution nationwide, last year missed targets to reduce emissions of major air and water pollutants by two percent, with levels actually rising by nearly that amount.

The report, however, noted some faint glimmers of hope.

It said 39 cities, four less than in 2005, made the administration's "black list" of urban areas with severe air pollution, the lion's share located in the northeast industrial belt or in major coal-producing regions in northern China.

It also said cities were making progress in handling waste water and garbage thanks to increasing numbers of treatment facilities, especially in more prosperous regions.

More than 42 percent of urban sewage was being treated in the cities surveyed, up from just 23 percent in 2005.

Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of household garbage was being properly disposed of, compared with less than 20 percent in 2005.

However, 200 of the cities surveyed, or more than one-third, still lacked a centralised sewage management system and 187 cities had no garbage disposal plants.

The environment watchdog has blamed provincial and local-level governments bent on achieving economic growth at all costs for the failure to make clear progress on pollution.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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US Loses Landmark Supreme Court Environmental Case
Washington (AFP) June 11, 2007
The US government must foot the bill for environmental clean-up costs paid voluntarily by a company hired on a federal contract, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. In a ruling that could expose the government to billions in claims, the nation's top court found in favor of Atlantic Research, which in the 1980s built rocket motors for the Pentagon at an Arkansas facility.

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