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China Warns Investors of New Environmental Controls
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China's environmental watchdog has warned investors to avoid heavily polluting or energy consuming projects in the run-up to new government measures on investment access criteria.


The measures focused on environmental protection and would expand the authority of officials in assessing project plans, said State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) deputy director Pan Yue.


The SEPA would change the existing examination and approval system for investment projects, he said. "We'll change the existing examination and approval system concerning the impact of investment projects on the environment," said Pan Yue. "The current system only evaluates investment projects individually and does not evaluate the project in a certain region or in its related industry."


Other new measures included:


-- setting up an evaluation database;


-- inviting experts to evaluate proposals;


-- ensuring the public's right to know and participate in major environment planning;


-- tracking the implementation of major investment projects by environmental protection departments;


-- stiff penalties for those responsible for investment projects that cause serious pollution.


Currently environmental protection departments only had the authority to evaluate individual projects but couldn’t make environmental evaluations of regional or industry planning, Pan explained.


Last year new investment projects in China were valued at more than two trillion yuan (US$250 billion). "All the projects qualified individually but together they’ll be a heavy burden on resources and the environment," Pan said.


The new policy will enable the SEPA to evaluate an investment project according to factors such as the region's population, natural resources and its relation to the whole industry, he said.


A SEPA official said Tuesday the exact date for the release of the new measures was yet to be set.


"We must not forget the first anniversary of the Songhuajiang River accident," Pan reminded the representatives attending the fourth China Investment Climate Forum in Hangzhou.


The Songhuajiang River, Harbin's major water source, was polluted after an explosion at a chemical plant November 13 in neighboring Jilin Province last year. "One pollution incident related to water occurred every two to three days in China last year, most of them linked to petrochemical companies," Pan explained.


China has more than 20,000 petrochemical companies, including more than 10,000 along the Yangtze River, 4,000 on the Yellow River and 2,000 in densely populated regions, SEPA statistics show.


(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2006)

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