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Songhua River Pollution Tackled Anew
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China's environmental watchdog on Thursday rolled out an action plan to slash pollution and improve the overall water quality of the Songhua River.



Speaking at a conference, Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said that from here on the banks of the Songhua would be cleared of all industrial projects discharging non-biodegradable pollutants.


"Stricter standards on iron and steel projects will be implemented to control the rapid growth of projects that consume large amounts of energy and cause serious pollution," said Zhou. All small paper mills and chemical plants along the river will be shut down before the end of this year while more waste-water treatment facilities will be set up, he specified. Since 2006, governmental investment in the region has amounted to 7.75 billion yuan (about US$1 billion) across 116 pollution control projects.


Winding its way through Jilin and Heilongjiang, the 1,900-km-long Songhua River irrigates 545,600 sq km of farmland in northeast China. It flows into the Heilong River, which goes on to become the Amur River in Russia. Thus, the international consequences of pollutants in the Songhua can be measured as reports rise of worsening pollution in the river and its tributaries.  


A crisis arose last August when two trucks from Changbaishan Jingxi Chemical Company carrying ten tons of toxic chemicals dumped their loads into the Mangniu, a principal tributary of the Songhua.


In November 2005, the northern city of Harbin was crippled as water supplies to 3.8 million people were halted as authorities scrambled to deal with around 100 tons of polluted waste containing benzene having contaminated the Songhua after a chemical plant explosion in Jilin.


"In a recent secret investigation of 82 polluting enterprises along the river, SEPA found over 80 percent flouting national standards in releasing pollutants,” said Zhu Xingxiang, director of the environment evaluation department of SEPA. "We'll focus on controlling the new sources of pollution in the coming year."


SEPA's current timetable would stabilize the river quality by 2008, and significantly improve it by 2010.



(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2007)

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