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Northwest Tackles Yellow River Pollution

As the outcry against pollution of the upper reaches of the Yellow River grows louder, Gansu Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region held working conferences last week to improve regulations and action plans to control and clean up the problem.


Gansu officials said that they will reform management systems for sewage and improve standards for urban domestic pollution. The province plans to implement controls for urban industrial, sewage and rubbish pollution. It will specifically target the issue of grease being dumped in the main sewage pipes in Lanzhou, the provincial capital, said Zhao Weimin, director of the Gansu Provincial Environment Protection Bureau.


Zhao said that the province will attempt to reach the central government's water quality standards by the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan. That period ends in 2005.


The Inner Mongolia government has created an emergency plan to prevent water pollution accidents. It has established and confirmed deadlines for completion of pollution-control infrastructure projects as well as for polluting companies to clean up their operations.


Industrial pollution is the chief culprit but sewage, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are accomplices, according to a recent report on Yellow River pollution.


A task force from the Yellow River Valley Water Resources Protection Bureau conducted an inspection tour early this year along the Yellow River. They found the water quality too poor for drinking in some 40 percent of the river's main trunk.


"With the region's rapid economic development, annual discharge of sewage into the Yellow River is double that of the 1980s, reaching 4.4 billion cubic meters, and most of the tributaries in the upper reaches of the Yellow River are polluted in varying degrees," said Chao Zengping, of the Yellow River Water Conservancy Committee.


Nearly all the tributaries in the middle and lower reaches have poor water quality year round, Chao said. They have been turned into cesspools.


The Yellow River, the second longest river in the country, has been a vital resource for the northern regions for countless centuries. From the highlands of Qinghai Province, it runs some 3,000 kilometers through Gansu, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Inner Mongolia.


That stretch of the river is lined with industrial enterprises involved in such high-pollution industries as energy, heavy chemicals, nonferrous metals and paper production. Most of the enterprises simply dump their waste into the river without proper treatment.


The Gansu Provincial Environment Protection Bureau reports that 237 million tons of wastewater pour into the Yellow River every year from that province alone.


The Yellow River flows through four cities in Gansu but only the capital, Lanzhou, has four sewage treatment plants at present, and their daily handling ability is only 150,000 tons. The sewage disposal fee charged is only enough to keep operating one 100,000-ton-capacity sewage treatment plant, according to Zhao Weimin.


(China Daily September 27, 2004)

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