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Songhua River Set for Major Clean-up
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The Chinese government is preparing to invest millions of yuan in the Songhua River to clean it up.


In a bid to improve the safety of the drinking water drawn from one of the country's most polluted rivers the Heilongjiang provincial government will invest 500 million yuan (US$64 million) in pollution control and prevention projects at 11 main water sources along the river, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.


"Ridding the Songhua River of pollution and protecting water sources are two issues that many people care about," Li Zhanshu, the deputy governor of Heilongjiang Province, was quoted as saying.


More than 6 million people living along the river in the province rely heavily on the river for both drinking water and industrial purposes.  


Twenty-one key local enterprises are planning to launch pollution-control schemes this year including a water-recycling project by the Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Corporation.


Toxic chemicals


Pollution in the Songhua River comes from many sources.


A blast at a chemical plant in November 2005 resulted in tons of toxic chemicals going into the river. This posed a great threat to the drinking water safety for millions of people living along the Songhua.


Harbin, the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, with a population of nearly 4 million, was forced to cut off the water from the river closing the city's water supply for four days.


This action resulted in lost production worth about 1.2 billion yuan (US$153 million) and inflicted direct economic losses of 560 million yuan (US$71 million) on Harbin enterprises.  


The Songhua River is one of the five most polluted rivers in the country, according to a list published last year. Some 13.4 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) is to be spent on controlling the pollution by 2010. The money will go to protecting main water resources, urban waste water disposal and recycling and controlling industrial pollution.


Water safety is a key concern in China, Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environment Protection Administration, said in a report that was submitted for discussion at a session of the National People's Congress last month.


Rampant pollution


"The shallow groundwater resources of all large and medium-sized cities are polluted to some extent," he said.


Zhou said the authorities would establish an administrative accountability system to prod local officials into doing more to control water pollution and enhance the use of market mechanisms to prevent all types of pollution.


Wang Shucheng, minister of water resources said at a meeting on Sunday that 160 million Chinese farmers would have access to clean drinking water by 2010. The central government would  invest 32 billion yuan (US$4 billion) to provide clean water supplies to farmers during that period, Wang said.


Last year, the central government allotted 6 billion yuan (US$768 million) to provide safe drinking water to nearly 29 million farmers.


But at the end of 2004 there were still 323 million people in rural areas who had to drink dirty or unhealthy water. This accounted for 34 percent of the country's total rural population, statistics from the ministry show.  


(China Daily January 10, 2007)

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