Six petrochemical companies in east China's Jiangsu Province are under orders to improve waste treatment and reduce pollution going into the Yangtze and other rivers.
The companies, including the Yangtze Petrochemical and Jinling Petrochemical Companies were ordered to address environmental problems by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
SEPA launched a comprehensive national review of chemical and petrochemical projects near major waterways on February 7.
China's petrochemical and chemical industries located near waterways pose a significant threat to the environment, SEPA said April 5, as it completed an inspection of 20 such projects at different sites.
Environmental protection officials inspected 127 projects and found 20 large plants with severe environmental issues including 11 along the Yangtze, China's longest waterway, one on the Yellow River and two at Daya Bay. Those inspected are involved in oil refining and working with ethylene and methanol.
SEPA has ordered those in charge to take immediate measures to address the problems. An additional 1.62 billion yuan (US$202 million) has been allocated for environmental safety facilities at the 20 sites.
The 20 factories and projects were subjected to SEPA checks due to the size of their operations, their location and potential to harm the environment.
"The factories and projects are involved in oil refining, ethylene and methyl alcohol production and such work plays a large part in China's economic development," said Pan Yue, SEPA vice-minister.
Environmental risks could not be resolved overnight and only a long-term, effective legal mechanism and supervision would achieve long-term environmental improvements for China's rivers and waterways, said Pan.
His words reflect the hopes of China's environment protection chiefs and the general public for an effective supervisory mechanism to prevent pollution.
Seventy-six water pollution incidents have been reported since the toxic chemical spill in northeast China's Songhua River last November. The only set target the government failed to realize during the 2001-05 period was that of environmental protection, said Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual session of the National People's Congress last month.
Since 2004, SEPA has launched several anti-pollution drives targeting enterprises operating without permission or discharging pollutants in violation of the laws.
Early last year, SEPA suspended construction of 30 large projects with a total investment of 117.9 billion yuan on the grounds of environmental protection. The move clearly demonstrated the government's resolve to stop pollution at source and to achieve sustainable development.
The government proposed a conservationist and environmentally friendly society in its 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010).
Following the Songhua River incident, SEPA kicked off a nationwide inspection on environmental safety and launched trials in ten provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, to calculate GDP taking environmental factors into account.
These measures displayed that SEPA was working to establish a long-term supervision mechanism which it is anticipated will help build an environmentally friendly society, said Wang Rong, a professor at prestigious Nanjing University in Jiangsu Province.
Meanwhile the government has raised the penalties for those who are in charge of enterprises which pollute the environment. .
Last year, 27 officials involved in seven incidents were prosecuted and convicted. And Xie Zhenhua resigned as SEPA director due to the Songhua River spill.
(Xinhua News Agency April 10, 2006)