Nation wages war on water contamination

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-17 0:53:02

10 most polluting industries targeted

China will target water-polluting industrial plants across 10 dirty industrial sectors, according to a plan released Thursday to combat water pollution.

Although some are worried that the plan may meet resistance from local governments over economic costs, observers believe that the central government's new plan released Thursday to combat water pollution will mean a boost to environmental protection industries, as authorities estimate that the new move will bring 1.9 trillion yuan of growth into the sector.

 In renewed efforts to tackle water contamination, the State Council released The Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control with the target of improving the nation's overall water quality and reducing pollutants.

The plan aims to make more than 93 percent of the water supply to cities meet the standard of "water suitable for drinking," ranked at national standard three or better on a scale from five (worst) to one, by 2020.

Small factories in sectors including papermaking, iron and steel, pesticides and tanning will be shut down by the end of 2016, as they are weak in environmental protection.

Bigger plants in these sectors must update their technology to meet emission requirements. If they fail to do so after being warned, these plants will also be shuttered.

More than 70 percent of the water in the seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should meet the standard by 2020, according to the plan.

About 68.6 percent of water in those rivers met the standard in 2014, up 1.6 percent from 2012, according to Chen Mingzhong, director of the department of water resources under the Ministry of Water Resources, in September.

"The government's effort sto combat water pollution have been focused on major river valleys. The new plan has more comprehensive and systematic coverage with the inclusion of small water streams," Wang Dong, research fellow with the Chinese Academy For Environmental Planning, told the Global Times.

The goals set out in the plan are ambitious and require prolonged efforts, in particular with regard to heavy metal pollutants which are difficult to remove from water, said Mu Jianxin, a senior engineer from the Department of Irrigation and Drainage with the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. 

Water pollution is one of the many critical environmental issues plaguing many parts of China today, threatening public health and economic development.

An estimated 280 million people in China are without safe drinking water, the Ministry of Environmental Protection revealed in a report in March last year.

The new plan came after the government vowed in March last year to spend over 70 billion yuan ($11.25 billion) to implement a clean water action plan, strengthen the protection of drinking water sources and prevent water pollution in key river basins.

From 2016, a blacklist will name businesses that exceed their pollutant quota, with severe violators risking the possibility of closure.

Mu predicted the plan may encounter resistance from industries and local governments out of concern over potential loss in profits. 

"Industries like iron and steel making are the pillar industries in some provinces. The requirement to update their technology will raise their production costs and may even stall the economic development in their region," Mu told the Global Times on Thursday.

The authorities are optimistic about the economic potential derived from environmental protection.

The plan is expected to bring a boost of 1.9 trillion yuan of overall growth in the environmental protection industries, with 1.4 trillion being spent on purchasing environmentally friendly products and services, according to estimates from the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).

In the latest government work report released in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang vowed to beef up efforts against water contamination with the introduction of the new environmental law.

Li also pledged to speed up the development and use of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies and products and turn energy conservation and environmental protection into dynamic sunrise industries.

Multiple government departments and agencies are involved in executing the plan and monitoring the progress.

"There will be challenges in communication and cooperation between the MEP and the Ministry of Water Resources, as the two departments adopt different priorities in environmental protection," Liao Wengen, deputy Chief Engineer with Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design General Institute at the Ministry of Water Resources, told the Global Times.

The government is also set to shut down or move illegal livestock and poultry farms amid worsening farm pollution with the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides. 

Liao pointed out that the key to reducing pollution from farmlands is to raise awareness of water conservation in rural villages.

Tiered pricing for residential water users will be rolled out nationwide this year to encourage conservation.

Pollution checks will be conducted every year and the results will be part of performance reviews of provincial officials. The distribution of the funds will also depend on the results.

Officials who fail to handle water pollution incidents effectively and those who fabricate statistics will be held accountable.

Xinhua contributed to this report

Posted in: Society

blog comments powered by Disqus