Guangdong Province may stop approving energy projects that cause pollution while moving to use natural gas.
Pollution in the Pearl River Delta, which covers only 0.3 percent of the nation's landmass but produces 9 percent of the annual GDP, is threatening sustainable development. It has even spread to neighboring provinces and regions such as Hunan, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macao.
Both the Guangdong Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau and the provincial government plan to pour billions of yuan to clean up the area.
The ban on new projects and the move to use more gas instead of coal-generated power are important parts of a proposal by the bureau to the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress.
Lu Fenglin, the bureau's deputy director of policy, said the ban would apply to cities in the middle part of the Pearl River Delta, such as Guangzhou, Foshan, and Dongguan.
Construction projects already approved would not be halted.
"For example, the Zhuhai Power Plant and Taishan Power Plant, have been approved to enlarge their power units. Their projects would not be affected by the newly passed environmental protection program," said Lu.
Coal-based power plants that release vast amounts of sulphide gases are a major source of pollution, said Lu.
Although the bureau has stopped approving construction of such plants in the delta, the existing ones already pose a serious threat.
According to the Environmental Program of the Pearl River Delta (2004-20), the bureau is expected to pour 9 billion yuan (US$1 billion) to clean up these power plants.
"We would install monitors in various power plants to supervise exhaust emissions," Lu said.
The program focuses on high-output power plants.
Smaller polluting plants may be shut down outright.
Meanwhile, the first phase of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project should be finished by 2006 and would supply electricity to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan and Foshan, the province's most developed cities.
"It may even reach every part of Guangzhou," Lu said.
Unlike other fossil fuels, natural gas is clean and emits a lower level of potentially harmful byproducts.
The Guangdong provincial government approved the Environmental Protection Program of the Pearl River Delta (2004-20) on September 24.
From 2004 to 2010, Guangdong plans to invest 132 billion yuan (US$16 billion) in environmental protection.
The program involves sewage treatment, garbage disposal, air cleaning and environmental early warning systems.
(China Daily October 13, 2004)