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China Launches Massive Program to Clean Bohai Sea

With billions of dollars of investment, China plans to gradually mend the Bohai Sea's ecological system that has been deteriorating due to pollution and irrational exploitation of ocean resources.

State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) announced Thursday in Beijing that the "Blue Sea Action Program" has be launched in the Bohai rim area with the aim to halt discharge of industrial wastes, to monitor environmental pollution and to restore the damaged ecological system in the sea.

At least 55.5 billion yuan (US$6.7 billion) in total investment will make the 15-year program the biggest ever effort of China to improve ocean environment, according to the SEPA.

The Bohai Sea is off the coast in north China where is one of the country's most populous and developed areas. Fishery, salt production, transportation and oil and gas development have long been pillars of local economy in those areas.

In recent years, governments of Liaoning, Hebei and Shandong provinces and Tianjin Municipality around the rim have set ambitious goals on the development of the ocean-based economy.

However, economic growth has also produced side effects -- pollution of seawater became more and more serious, said Liu Xiuru, director of the SEPA's office of maritime environment protection.

The shape of the Bohai gulf limits the inflow and outflow of waters, which means the sea's self-clean ability is poor, and excessive discharge of pollutants makes the situation worse, she said.

In addition, biological diversity has been damaged and some ocean resources are on the verge of exhaustion due to rampant fishing activities, she said.

The program has been jointly mapped out by the SEPA, the state departments of oceanology, transportation, and agriculture, and local governments around the Bohai rim. The State Council has approved the plan and required for full implementation by local governments.

Liu Xiuru said that the program will be carried out in three phases in the coming 15 years.

By the year of 2005, enterprises along the Liaohe, Haihe and Yellow rivers, which all end up running into the Bohai gulf, will have to meet the state standards of waste discharge, and a number of waste water disposal centers will be established in cities concerned, she noted.

Discharges of major pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphor, heavy metals and crude oil, will be cut by 10 to 20 percent in the next five years.

Implementation of the plans for the periods of 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 is expected to further bring about decrease in pollutant discharges, establishment of sustainable ecological system, and eventual improvement of the ocean environment of Bohai, Liu said.

She said that the SEPA and local governments will carry out about 430 projects concerning pollution treatment, reconstruction of ecological environment, and scientific research in the years to 2010.

Liu said that the program has been worked out on the basis of thorough research and ample consultations by departments of the central authorities and local governments, and current technologies and experience of pollution control provide a sound base for the implementation of the program.

She said that the 55.5-billion-yuan investment should be bearable if compared with the financial strength of the region as it accounts for only 0.5 percent of the annual GDP (gross domestic product) of the Bohai rim area.

In addition, various kinds of fund-raising channels will be adopted to help ensure the capital input, Liu said.

(People’s Daily November 9, 2001)

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