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China to evaluate environmental impact of development plans
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As part of its bid to improve China's threatened environment, the State Environmental Protection Agency is set to evaluate the environmental impact of development plans in five regions and five heavily polluted industries, as pilot projects for national practice.

A council made up of 39 experts will review the environmental impact of the economy in the regions and industries in order to help them draft eco-friendly strategies, said Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) at an international conference, which opened Saturday.

The regions include the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River where energy projects are densely located, the west coast economic zone of the Taiwan Straits, the economic zone along Beibu Gulf in south China, the Bohai Ring economic area in north China and Chengdu-Chongqing economic zone in southwest China.

The industries are steel, petrochemicals, power, paper making, and the coal chemical industry.

Such pilot projects have already been carried out in ten cities, provinces and autonomous regions and three industries in China.

China has started to pay the price for industrial development entered into without taking account of the environmental impact, Pan said.

Citing as an example, Pan said that 26 of the 75 largest steel plants in China are located in cities with population of more than 1 million. "The conflict between the development of steel plants and cities is more and more obvious," he said.

In Xiamen City of southeast China's Fujian Province known for its pretty seaside views, a large chemical plant project led to strong protests among residents in June this year.

"It is an urgent need to adopt environmental impact evaluations on regional and industrial development plans," Pan said.

The country can already conduct environmental impact evaluations on single projects, for instance a power station.

The SEPA has been working for a regulation on environmental impact evaluation on government policies and plans for two years but it has not, as yet, been published.

"Some industries and local governments oppose implementing such a policy, based on their own interests, which made our work harder," Pan said.

But the draft regulation has been submitted to the State Council, China's cabinet, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 4, 2007)

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