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China to Automate Real-time Monitoring of Polluters
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Confounded by rising discharges of industrial waste and the deterioration in water and air quality, China's environment watchdog is setting up an extensive automation network to conduct real-time monitoring of the countries' most notorious polluters.


On Thursday, Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), announced that, "China is now launching an automated project which, by the end of 2008, will closely monitor key polluters who account for 65 percent of the country's industrial waste."


Environment agencies and activists have complained that after being inspected by SEPA officials, many industrial plants simply turn off their expensive sewage disposal facilities and resume the dumping of waste directly into rivers.


As a result, many rivers have started to turn black, with fish populations in rapid decline.


Zhou stated that SEPA's new nationwide real-time monitoring network is aimed at preventing such contempt for government policies. The network will also monitor the activities of urban sewage disposal plants.


In order to ensure the success of the new network, Zhou also announced the implementation of a new government assessment system to ensure that organizations or local officials that choose to ignore their responsibility towards pollution control will be properly dealt with.


The Chinese government has set a goal of slashing the emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent during its 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), but it recently admitted that it had failed to meet its 2006 goal of a 2 percent reduction.


A recent SEPA report revealed that last year, sulphur dioxide emissions increased by 463,000 tons in China, 1.8 percent higher than the previous year. The Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a water pollution index, reached 14.31 million tons, a 1.2 percent rise on 2005.


China aims to reduce its sulphur dioxide emissions and COD this year by 3.2 million tons and 1.23 million tons respectively.


"We are optimistic we can meet the target by taking a series of concrete measures," Zhou said.


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has decided to head up a taskforce in a bid to ensure that government targets are met and the ongoing trend of deterioration is brought to a halt.


Analysts claim that this unprecedented move by the Premier will serve as a deterrent for local governments who are more interested in economic growth than environmental protection.


Zhou Shengxian, also revealed that plans are in the pipeline for the assessment of local government work on pollution control, in which authorities that fail to meet pollution control targets will be punished by cuts in financial support from the central government. Local officials' promotion prospects are also set to be judged by their efforts in reducing pollution.


"Environment indices will be publicized for public supervision," said Zhou, "those who fabricate them will be dealt with appropriately."


(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2007)

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