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Convention on POPs Awaits Ratification

China is preparing to ratify an international convention aimed at controlling persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Officials with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said yesterday that an application for the ratification has been submitted to the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature.


The country is already working on a plan to implement the convention nationwide, said SEPA Vice Minister Wang Jirong, during a Sino-US workshop on implementation of the convention yesterday.


The Stockholm Convention on POPs was signed by about 150 countries, including China, in May 2001. It came into effect on May 17 this year.


POPs are highly toxic chemical substances that threaten human health and the environment. Well-known POPs include DDT, used to combat malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and PCBs, used as electrical insulators in transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. The convention aims initially to control 12 POPs, the "Dirty Dozen."


China is also working toward developing alternatives to POPs.


Both experts and officials agreed that the country faces an uphill battle.


Yue Runsheng, a senior official with SEPA's Department of International Cooperation, said the country should improve its POPs policy and legal systems, management, basic study and risk assessment. It also faces a lack of professionals and the funds to develop techniques for substituting, treating and reducing POPs.


The reduction and elimination of POPs require enormous effort. For example, although China has stopped producing PCBs, it estimates there are tens of thousands of tons of PCBs across the country.


"We are not sure where such PCBs are, so finding and identifying them requires huge input," Yue said.


According to Zang Wenchao, who works with SEPA’s Division of Solid Waste and Chemicals, China will tighten control over chemicals, including POPs.


New measures will include the establishment of a national chemical and pesticide management system, implementing safe treatment of hazardous chemical waste and seeking more international financial and technical support.


China is one of the world’s largest chemical producers.


Five of the products on the Dirty Dozen list were once mass-produced in China, and four are still produced and used in some places.


(China Daily June 9, 2004)

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