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SEPA Closes 400 Heavy Polluters
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More than 750 industrial firms have been closed down or ordered to improve their environmental standards following a two-month campaign by the top environmental watchdog to clean up the country's rivers.


The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) launched the campaign in July in six cities, two counties and five industrial parks along the Yangtze, Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe rivers.


Of the 1,162 firms investigated, 400 were closed down, 249 had their operations suspended while improvements were made to their environmental facilities, and 102 were given a deadline to correct wrongdoings.


The SEPA also recovered 725 million yuan (US$96 million) in fines for polluting.


Pan Yue, deputy minister of the SEPA said: "Punishment is not our aim. We want to push local industries to restructure their operations."


In Xiangfen county of Shanxi Province, the country's largest coal-mining province, the campaign led to the closure of facilities responsible for the annual production of 800,000 tons of coke, 1.8 million tons of pig iron, 8 million tons of coal washing and 100,000 tons of chemicals due to them using outdated technologies, which resulted in heavy levels of pollution.


"The campaign was only run on a small scale," Pan said. "We still have a long way to go to curb the nationwide industrial expansion, which demands high volumes of energy and creates huge amounts of pollution."


Dealing with water pollution has become the SEPA's primary concern. Its figures showed that of the 1,406 accidents reported in 2005, water pollution accounted for nearly half.


In November 2005, the Songhua River, a tributary of the Heilongjiang River, which forms part of the border between China and Russia, was hit by a chemical spill. The incident caught the attention of people at home and abroad, especially in Russia, and since then the two countries have been cooperating to monitor the river's water quality.


The government has put the treatment of the river on the top of its working agenda and has allocated a budget of more than 13 billion yuan to fund more than 200 cleanup projects.


According to the SEPA, 84 projects have already been completed or are under construction. Three wastewater treatment plants have been opened and 15 pollution sources have adopted clean production technologies.


(China Daily September 4, 2007)

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