Water pollution control goals of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001 -
2005) in major river regions are far from being reached, warned Xie
Zhenhua, minister of the State Environmental Protection
Administration (SEPA), at a
national conference on water pollution control in Wuxi, Jiangsu
Province. Xie called on all regions across the country to learn
from the successful efforts in the areas around Taihu Lake.
Of the 2,418 water pollution control projects designed for the
nation’s major river regions, only 777 have been completed and 673
are under way. The remainder, some 40 percent, have not been
launched at all.
To date, about 64.5 billion yuan (US$7.8 billion) has been
invested in the projects, while the total planned investment stands
at 192.6 billion yuan (US$23.0 billion), Xie said at the conference
Expenditures so far include 14.7 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion)
from the central government and 49.8 billion yuan (US$6.0 billion)
from local governments.
The subject regions include those along and around the Huaihe,
Haihe and Liaohe rivers and Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi lakes, known
as the Three Rivers and Three Lakes Region. Those regions come
under the auspices of 11 provinces as well as the Beijing, Tianjin
and Shanghai municipalities.
The regions also include the eastern line of the South-to-North
Water Project--the country’s largest water diversion project--the
area around the Three Gorges Project and the Bohai Sea coast.
Although there has been some progress, water quality at half the
monitoring points in the Three Rivers and Three Lakes Region does
not meet the requirements of the 10th Five-Year Plan, Xie said.
The ecological balance in the Haihe and Liaohe rivers is
seriously disturbed, and the West Liaohe River in the Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region has been dry for five consecutive
Some river branches in the region of the Three Gorges Project
have even seen worsening water quality.
Xie attributed the current situation to some local governments’
blind pursuit of economic growth, insufficient investment and
failure to phase out obsolete techniques and polluting
He said sewage and waste generated by daily life and
agricultural production also contribute to the problem. Urban
discharge of sewage has been increasing rapidly, but the
construction of treatment plants lags far behind.
Xie urged local governments to launch the planned projects by
2005 and to seek funds for the projects. Local fees for sewage
treatment should be raised so that the cost of building and
operating treatment plants can be covered. Xie pointed to Taihu
Lake as a success story.
Taihu Lake is the third largest freshwater lake in China, with
an area of about 2,340 square kilometers. It is a major source of
drinking water for people in Shanghai and Jiangsu and Zhejiang
provinces, all booming areas in east China.
However, by 2001 water in the lake had been seriously polluted
by discharge from local industries and people living in the area.
That year, a pollution control plan was developed for the
Since then, more than 100 printing, dyeing and chemical plants
in Jiangsu have been shut down, said Xie. Authorities have also
shut down or suspended the pulp production lines of 14 paper mills
and helped another five large mills develop more environmentally
The paper output in the province has grown by a factor of 10,
while the discharge of pollutants has dropped by 50 percent.
According to Shi Zhenhua, head of the Jiangsu Province
Environmental Protection Bureau, 92 percent of the Taihu Lake
pollution control projects in have been started and the rest will
be launched within the first half of the year.
Nearly 60 percent of the projects have been completed and put
into use, he said, and the goals set for pollution control in the
lake have basically been reached.
Xie said that by 2005, sewage treatment plants in the Taihu Lake
region will have a capacity of 2.2 million tons per day, nearly 30
percent more than the 1.7 million tons required by the 10th
Both government officials and independent experts believe the
success at Taihu Lake is a direct result of market reform. Shi said
that in 2000, construction of the province’s sewage treatment
plants around the lake were almost stopped because of low charges
for sewage treatment.
(China Daily May 10, 2004)