Drinking water should soon be cleaner and safer as China's environment administrator cracks down on waterway polluters.
Major inland waterways, including Taihu and Dianchi Lakes and the Huaihe, Haihe, Liaohe and Yangtze rivers, are on the priority list for the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
These waterways are major sources of drinking water for nearby cities.
The SEPA will further tighten the issuance of drainage certificates to factories.
Only factories which can prove they meet environmental protection standards will be granted the new drainage certificates. Factories without such certificates will be banned from discharging into rivers.
Local government leaders will also be held accountable for pollution in their administrative areas. Their performance evaluations will be tied to overall environmental conditions in their jurisdictions.
The media will also be involved in this year's environmental protection campaign. They will be invited to help monitor environmental conditions and expose major polluters.
Members of the public will also be able to have their say. They can report pollution incidents via a hotline or the Internet, and follow the investigation process.
The SEPA encourages people to sue factories which pollute their environments, and will help by providing professional advice.
The administration also announced the results of its river pollution monitoring for 2002. Five provinces and municipalities - Sichuan, Henan, Hunan, Ningxia and Chongqing - were on the blacklist.
Some 90 paper-making factories in Sichuan Province were responsible for more than a third of the pollution in the province's waterways, while their contribution to the gross domestic product was only 0.8 percent.
The province has decided to close all paper-making factories that produce less than 17,000 tons of products a year and to upgrade the waste water systems of the remaining large factories to meet national standards.
The Minjiang and Tuojiang rivers which have been polluted by the factories are expected to be rehabilitated before 2005.
Paper-making factories in Hunan and Henan provinces have also run foul of the environmental watchdog. The SEPA has asked local governments to close the plants if they cannot update their waste water systems quickly.
Metal refineries have also been identified as major polluters. Four such refineries in Huayuan County of Hunan Province polluted the Dongwan River and local farms which depend on the river for irrigation.
(China Daily June 5, 2003)