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Stiffer Penalties for Water Polluters
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The proposed amendment to the current water pollution law will feature stiffer penalties and more protection of drinking water sources, an insider said yesterday.


The suggested new content includes tighter limits on total discharge levels, a permit system for pollution discharge and the setting up of an emergency plan, an official from the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), who asked not to be named, said.


The draft amendment was approved on Wednesday at the State Council's executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiaobao.


It is now awaiting reviews by the State legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, submitted by the State Council.


China Daily learned the revised draft had been extended to 83 articles from 62 in the current law.


"More emphasis has been put on individual responsibility for water pollution control," the source said.


It refers to pollution dischargers and relevant government personnel, the source said.


Zhou Shengxian, the minister of the environmental watchdog, had earlier vowed to use an "iron fist" to tackle the growing water crises.


"The water pollution situation is critical. New problems keep arising before old ones are tackled," Zhou was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.


The discharge of pollutants into rivers and lakes has aroused public concern over water safety and supply, he said.


The SEPA received 1,814 public petitions in the first half of the year, each demanding an improved environment, up 8 percent on 2006, Xinhua reported.


Ma Zhong, an environmental professor at the Beijing-based Renmin University, has long appealed for the law to be amended.


Inaugurated in 1984, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution was revised slightly in 1996.


"The maximum penalty of 1 million yuan ($131,000) should be increased," Ma said.


He said the penalty was just a fraction of the money firms saved by discharging waste illegally.


Ma also criticized the current water pollution law for failing to focus on prevention and control rather than accommodating economic development. In the past two years, environmental problems occurred on average every two days, and 70 percent of them were water related, he said.


Ninety percent of the nation's rivers that pass through cities are contaminated, resulting in 300 million farmers running short of drinking water and 400 million urban residents having no fresh air to breath, the SEPA said.


(China Daily July 6, 2007)

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