Environmental authorities in Liaoning Province have handed down strict punishments to two polluting factories, in a move aimed at demonstrating their commitment to the environment.
The factories were both blacklisted by the national environment watchdog, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), earlier this year after they caused serious pollution in nearby rivers.
Xinjulang Paper Mill in Dandong has been ordered to cease operations and will be relocated, while Qingyang Chemical Factory in Liaoyang has been ordered to clean up its act immediately or be shut down.
"If the company cannot meet environmental protection standards, we will order it to stop production and close down," said Zhu Jinghai, vice-chief of Liaoning provincial environmental protection bureau.
The factories both employ approximately 1000 people. Reports say Xinjulang is to lay off 462 workers.
Experts estimate halting Xinjulang's operations will reduce the volume of polluted water released into the Yalu River by 6 million tons each year.
The company says it has invested 3 billion yuan (US$375 million) in its relocation, and will use environmentally-friendly production methods.
The Qingyang Chemical Factory estimates its annual waste water discharge will be reduced by 1.68 million tons and it invests 480 million yuan (US$60 million) to upgrade equipment that deals with waste water.
The move is in line with a national warning given by the SEPA.
The watchdog singled out 11 heavily-polluting factories along major rivers across the country, and this February ordered them to clean up, or face fines or closure.
The SEPA warning came after it carried out a national survey of 78 factories in the wake of a chemical spill in Northeast China's Songhua River in November.
In the past, local governments have been accused of putting too much emphasis on GDP figures, often at the expense of the environment.
However, Liaoning provincial government now links river protection with official assessment, according to Xu Weiguo, vice-governor of Liaoning Province.
Zhu Jinghai told that they have not found any suggestions of malfeasance in these two cases. But he promised, "Any officials involved in environmental accidents will be punished."
(China Daily May 26, 2006)