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Moves to Curb River Pollution

China is stepping up its fight against sewage and waste in the Yangtze River in answer to growing public concern about ecological disaster.

Wang Yuqing, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said a blueprint was now being crafted to curb the deteriorating water quality in its upper reaches, which run through Southwestern China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality.

"Fighting against the sewage and waste in the Yangtze River is the top concern of the next five years," said Wang.

Efforts will also be helpful to the launch of the Three Gorges Dam Project, the world's largest hydropower project, and China's ambitious water diversion project to funnel waters from the Yangtze River to North China, including Beijing and Tianjin cities.

"Cleaning up the upper reaches of the Yangtze River will ensure residents in the dam regions and in North China get clean, good-quality water," he said.

The Yangtze River flows from Northwest China's Qinghai Province and empties into the East China Sea near Shanghai. It forms the backbone of China's major economic activities and population. But environmental negligence and rapid economic expansion have been detrimental to the ecological well-being of the region.

Industrial sewage discharged into the Yangtze River has hit 15 billion tons, accounting for 45.2 percent of China's total, while domestic sewage reached 35.8 billion tons, 35.7 percent of the total, official statistics indicate.

"The pollution is worsening the water quality and creating a big menace to the subsistence of wildlife, some of which are endangered species like white-flag dolphin and black finless porpoise," said Wang.

Comprehensive efforts are up and running. Wang said sewage treatment plants will be opened in Sichuan and Chongqing to stop the polluted water running into the middle and lower reaches.

Plants will also be built to deal with rubbish dumped along the Yangtze River, another major pollutant of the river in the upper and middle reaches. Rules will be issued to keep a lid on ships and households disposing of waste in or near the river.

Wang's administration is currently working with the Ministry of Information Industry to set up a hotline for the public to inform on offenders, and vent their anger on environmental issues across the nation.

During the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000), the central government spent about 34 billion yuan (US$4.1 billion) on improving the environment, a big increase from the 3.5 billion (US$423 million) spent in the field between 1991 and 1995.

(China Daily 05/05/2001)

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