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Paper Mills to Be Closed to Protect Dongting Lake
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Dozens of polluting paper-making factories will be shut down near Dongting Lake, China's second largest freshwater lake, to halt the deterioration in water quality, according to a newly unveiled pollution treatment plan.


By the end of this year, eight hugely polluting paper-making mills will be closed and all other paper-making firms who cannot meet waste discharge requirements will be ordered to stop production by late March 2007, said the plan by the Environmental Protection Administration of central China's Hunan Province.


"The pollution at Dongting Lake will start to recede a year after the plan is carried out," said Jiang Yimin, director of the administration.


With a water area of 2,625 sq km, Dongting Lake is the second-largest freshwater lake in China after Poyang Lake. It is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in northeastern Hunan.


The lake used to have a water area of 6,000 sq km, but shrank to 4,350 sq km in the early 1950s due to silting and land reclamation.


Large areas of reed and poplar, a fast-growing tree, both of which are used as raw materials in papermaking, have led to a sharp rise in the number of paper-making factories around the lake.


There are 101 paper-making factories near the lake, but only two of them meet waste discharge requirements, according to the administration.


Each year, the factories discharge more than 100 million tons of waste water without meeting environmental protection standards, most of which goes into the lake, the administration said.


Paper-making mills with an annual capacity of less than 10,000 tons will be shut down by the end of next year, it said. The administration will strictly supervise big paper-making factories near the lake.


The governments of Yueyang, Changde and Yiyang, three cities around Dongting Lake, have promised to comply with the plan, according to Jiang.


China has 361,100 sq km of lakes and 90,000 sq km of wetlands, with a freshwater storage of 226 billion cubic meters.


Nearly 1,000 lakes have disappeared over the past 50 years, an average rate of 20 lakes lost each year, said Zhu Guangyao, Vice Minister of State Environmental Protection Administration of China.


Zhu said 75 percent of China's 20,000 natural lakes and thousands of artificial lakes suffer from algae pollution caused by waste water -- containing nitrogen, phosphorus and other harmful substances -- resulting from industrial and farming activities.


(Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2006)

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