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Polluters Shut Down on Huaihe

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has closed 52 polluting factories in the Huaihe River basin in order to stop serious water contamination. SEPA Vice Minister Pan Yue made the announcement on Sunday in Beijing.


Paper and chemical makers were the biggest offenders, accounting for 67 percent of the factories closed. Another 17 percent were wineries, and 6 percent pharmaceuticals makers. The remaining 10 percent were in various other industries.


From May 28 to June 11, SEPA sent out three teams to inspect 165 factories that were believed to be major pollution sources of the Huaihe River.


They also inspected 30 domestic sewage treatment plants, 65 tributaries and 155 sections of the main trunk of the Huaihe, in 21 riverside cities and 91 counties and districts.


The teams found that 31.5 percent of the 165 enterprises often illegally released excess waste into the river. Seventeen sewage treatment plants--more than half of those inspected--were found not to be operating properly.


According to Pan, the average water quality in Huaihe is still very poor. Most branches of the river, such as the Wohe, Chihe and Bei Feihe, are heavily polluted and their water quality is below Level III, a standard at which water can be drinkable after treatment. The total volume of discharged waste is well beyond the capacity of the environment.


Environmental officials and other experts said that the rapid growth in both population and industry are mainly to blame.


From 2001 and 2003, the population in the Huaihe region grew by 20 million. It now amounts to some 170 million.


The building of more industrial plants has meant domestic and industrial wastes have also increased and have become a major source of the aggravated pollution in the Huaihe River.


The level of local economic protectionism is one of the root causes of further deterioration in the environment, Pan said. It was very common for governments at different levels in the region to give priority to economic development while paying scant heed to environment protection. They are even willing to sacrifice the environment to record GDP increases.


Inadequate investment in pollution control projects is a contributing factor.


So far, only 33 percent of the Huaihe River pollution control budget in the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001–2005) period has been utilized. In some provinces the rate is only 20 percent.


Only 27 percent of the 488 projects set by the Tenth Five-Year Plan are finished and only 35 percent are presently under construction.


Construction of 91 domestic sewage treatment plants in 85 cities has not begun. Although some plants have been built, they are working inefficiently. In Anhui Province, none of the 29 projects for domestic sewage treatment plants has been finished and 82.8 percent have not even been started.


Meanwhile, the economic structure in the region is not healthy. Papermaking, wine and beverage making, chemical production, leather, printing and dyeing are the five dominant industries.


These heavily polluting industries contribute to only 26.6 percent of the economic growth while their chemical oxygen depletions (COD) account for 78.4 percent of the total industrial discharge. Their ammonia and nitrogen discharges are 94.2 percent of the total.


Non-industrial pollution is also an important factor on the Huaihe. Seventy percent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides remain in the soil and agriculture products, but they eventually run off back into the water system. Unfortunately, farmers in the region are using chemicals in increasing amounts.


(China Daily June 21, 2004)

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