More than half of Chinese cities suffer from air pollution and over one third have no centralized sewage treatment facilities, according to a report issued by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) on Monday.
The report rated air pollution the major environmental problem for urban areas after assessing last year's environmental conditions in 509 cities.
According to the report, air quality in only 44.9 percent of cities was above Grade II, a national standard indicating a clean and healthy air environment. However, the figure was 12.6 percentage points higher than the figure for 2004.
Forty-three cities, down by 9.9 percentage points, were put on SEPA's black list, with air quality below Grade III, meaning serious to very serious air pollution.
North China's Shanxi Province, the country's largest coal supplier and most polluted region, has the dubious distinction of having 16 cities on the list. Neither Beijing nor Shanghai appear on the list.
The report found that only 22.94 percent of sewage was treated adequately in the cities surveyed and less than 20 percent of household garbage met with proper handling.
It said 178 cities examined had not built any sewage treatment facilities and 130 cities had not been equipped with garbage disposal plants.
SEPA urged these cities to raise environmental protection investment and urgently ramp up of related infrastructure construction.
The cities concerned are required to improve their sewage handling and recycling capabilities as well as develop effective ways of treating sludge and hazardous liquids produced from sewage and garbage disposal plants.
Otherwise, the environmental goal of having at least 70 percent of sewage and 60 percent household garbage effectively treated in cities set in the country's 11th Five-Year Plan would be impossible to attain, said the report.
It called for local governments to play a leading role in improving urban environmental quality with officials' evaluations becoming closely linked to their performance in pollution control.
Local governments should also pay more attention to problems like noise, floating dust, vehicle emissions and catering pollution, all major areas of public complaint, it indicated.
(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2006)