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Toxic coal ash a source of concern in China: Greenpeace

China to require firms to report on environment impact
Shanghai (AFP) Sept 15, 2010 - China said it will require listed firms in polluting industries to publish environmental impact reports annually as the government steps up efforts to hit an energy efficiency target. The requirement will apply to 16 industries including thermal power, steel, cement, coal and mining, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. Listed companies in these sectors will also be required to disclose details of environmental accidents within a day. Earlier this year, China's top gold producer Zijin Mining Group failed to report for more than a week a toxic spill from a mine it operated.

A top official pledged Tuesday that China would do all it could to meet its target of cutting energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent from 2006 to 2010. "In order to fulfill this goal we will exhaust all effective means," said Zhang Xiaoqiang, a senior economic planning official, according to the official Xinhua news agency. However, he added China would struggle to hit the target.

As the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China has insisted energy efficiency is necessary to reduce pollution and clean up its environment. Missing the goal could result in red faces for top leaders who have trumpeted efforts to curb emissions growth and develop renewable energy. China will next month host the final United Nations climate change meeting before full global UN talks on the issue in December in Mexico. Last month the Chinese government ordered more than 2,000 firms in high-polluting and energy-intensive industries to shut down outdated plants in its latest efforts to cut pollution and restructure the economy.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 15, 2010
China's coal-fired plants produce enough toxic ash to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every two and a half minutes, creating contaminants that travel far and wide, Greenpeace said Wednesday.

As the world's largest coal user, China's more than 1,400 coal-fired electrical plants produce at least 375 million tonnes of coal ash every year -- 2.5 times the quantity in 2002, the environmental group said.

"Every four tonnes of coal burnt produce one tonne of coal ash," Yang Ailun, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace China, told reporters at the launch of a report on the cost of coal in the Asian nation.

"This substantially erodes China's already-scarce land and water resources, while damaging public health and the environment," she said.

The group said many power plants did not follow regulations on coal ash disposal. It investigated 14 plants around the country and found many disposal sites were located too close to villages and residential areas.

It said it had also detected more than 20 different kinds of harmful substances in samples collected from the disposal sites of the plants, including lead, mercury and arsenic.

"Many of the coal ash disposal sites we visited had poor safeguards to prevent coal ash contamination via wind dispersal or leakage into water," Yang said.

"This affects nearby villages most directly, but it also poses huge threats to all of China, as contaminants enter the food chain or are scattered by the winds far and wide."

According to the report, coal ash can spread over an area spanning up to 150,000 square kilometres (60,000 square miles) -- the size of Nepal -- in high winds.

The harmful substances have been detected in milk cows, it said, adding the government needed to strengthen regulations and oversight on coal ash disposal, storage and recycling.

"Coal ash pollution is only one part of the enormous damage coal does to our environment, society and health," Yang said.

"The only way to end coal's death grip on our environment is to reform our energy structure through massively improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy."

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