China will invest 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) over the next five years to curb further pollution of the northeastern Songhua River, according to a plan approved by China's State Council on Wednesday.
The plan is to prevent and control pollution in the drainage area of the river, which flows into a river on the China-Russia border. The executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao also ordered the launch of a series of projects to tackle industrial sources of pollution and treat urban sewage.
A senior official with the State Environment Protection Administration (SEPA) said the plan will include more than 200 projects, among which 100 or more will work on industry-related pollution. The main aim of the projects is to reduce chemical oxygen depletion (COD) by 70,000 tons each year.
Seventy projects will focus on improving facilities for sewage processing and they are expected to handle three million tons of sewage every day.
The executive meeting also stressed that "priority shall be given to treatment and protection of drinking water sources in large and medium-sized cities to ensure safety of drinking water and water quality of the China-Russia border river."
Priority cities include Harbin, Changchun, Jilin, Qiqihar, Daqing, Jiamusi, and Mudanjiang, an official with the State Development and Reform Commission said.
He noted that the plan has proposed concrete measures to insure pollution control work and set targets to be achieved by 2010, which include:
-- Sources of drinking water in large and medium-sized cities in the area should be treated and put under protection.
-- Tasks to treat urban sewage of major cities and major sources of industrial pollution should be fulfilled.
-- Major pollution hazards should be effectively controlled and monitored. Total volume of discharge of major pollutants should be effectively controlled.
-- Water quality of seriously polluted water bodies in large and medium-sized cities should be improved.
-- Monitoring of water quality and water pollution early-warning and emergency response mechanisms in this area should be improved markedly.
The Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the prevention and control of pollution in this area and has put it on the 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) Guideline for national economic and social development.
"Doing the job well is of great significance to reinvigorating the old industrial base of northeast China, boosting coordinated economic and social development and improving people's lives," it was said at the meeting.
Also on Wednesday, SEPA announced that there were another 73 water pollution cases following the Songhua River incident. SEPA Deputy Director Pan Yue said more active measures will be taken to monitor pollution, and more severe punishment will be meted out to those found responsible.
An accident at an upstream chemical plant severely polluted the Songhua River last November. Cities along the river were forced to temporarily suspend drawing water from the river, a major water source, affecting the lives of millions of residents and the normal operation of businesses.
(Xinhua News Agency March 30, 2006)