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Efforts to Control Songhua River Contamination Appreciated
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The United Nations Under Secretary Klaus Toepfer said in Beijing on Wednesday that he appreciated the efforts by the Chinese government in tackling the major pollution in northeast China's Songhua River.


"We are informed of the Songhua River pollution on a daily basis and if required, can contact the Chinese environment minister through the Chinese Embassy in Kenya," said Toepfer, also executive director of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Program (UNEP). 


In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, he said he was also personally informed of the pollution in detail upon arrival in Beijing on Wednesday by Xie Zhenhua, minister of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). 


A full package of measures should be taken to tackle the pollution, he said, noting that first of all, the people living along the river should be kept informed of the pollution solution and advised to restrict the use of the polluted water. 


He said that good work had been done in Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, where water supply had been cut off for four days before the taps were turned on again on Saturday. 


"Second, it is the right decision to set up a task force in the SEPA to concentrate knowledge and capacity with regard to assessment, monitoring and actions, and I believe it will be helpful," he said. 


Toepfer spoke highly of Premier Wen Jiabao's recent visit to the polluted part of the Songhua River, saying the visit helped build up confidence in fighting the pollution. 


He said that the SEPA had invited UNEP staff to the Songhua River "to have a first hand view" of the pollution. 


"The UNEP stands ready to be available in this especially difficult situation to help China combat the pollution," he said. 


He noted that it was necessary to inform and cooperate with Russia to tackle the pollution, as the polluted water will flow into the Heilongjiang River that borders China and Russia. 


According to SEPA, China now informs Russia of the pollution development twice a day and has sent it monitoring equipment. China has also provided Russia with a list of pollutants in the Songhua River. 


Meanwhile, Russia has also sent a delegation to China to learn about the situation. 


On Wednesday, Xie pledged that China would do its utmost to confine the Songhua River pollution within the country's boundaries to minimize any cross-border impact. 


The pollution in the Songhua River was caused by a chemical plant explosion in Jilin City of northeast China's Jilin Province. About 100 tons of benzene-type material was dumped into the river as a result. 


"I think the lesson learned from the incident is as important as the fight against the consequences of the disaster," Toepfer said. 


(Xinhua News Agency December 1, 2005)

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