The State Environmental Protection Administration received 600,000 complaints regarding environmental issues last year, an increase of 30 percent over the year before, said the administration's deputy director Pan Yue.
Environmental degradation remains the prominent problem stifling China's economic and social development, said Pan, adding that energy consumption and pollution discharge goals were far from being met.
Last year, China reported 161 pollution accidents last year, or one every other day. The administration suspended 163 projects that would damage the environment with a total investment of 770 billion yuan (US$96 billion).
Many of the projects were highly-polluting and energy-costly, such as constructions of steel and power plants, Pan said.
The administration on Wednesday also exposed 82 projects that seriously violated state environment appraisal standards.
These projects, involving 112.3 billion yuan (14 billion U.S. dollars) of investment, covered 12 industries, including steel, power and chemical plants, in 22 provinces and regions nationwide.
"Some of the projects did not apply for government approval before beginning construction, and some local governments provided highly-polluting enterprises asylum in the blind pursuit of economic development," Pan said.
He noted that some enterprises had promised to cut pollution and energy consumption when their projects were banned by the administration, but later failed to do as promised when local governments loosened control.
Pan said the administration still want to see results from these enterprises and plans to conduct a follow-up to make sure they've cleaned up their act.
The administration also decided to tighten approval of construction projects in four highly-polluted cities -- Tangshan City of Hebei Province, Luliang City of Shanxi Province, Liupanshui City of Guizhou Province and Laiwu City of Shandong Province.
"The environment in these cities can not endure more highly-polluting industries," Pan said.
Tangshan now has 70 small-sized steel companies, 80 percent of which never applied for approval from the administration, and local governments are reluctant to sacrifice economic returns by shutting down the polluting companies, Pan said.
Environmental pollution caused 511.8 billion yuan (about US$64 billion) in economic losses in 2004, amounting to 3.05 percent of GDP that year, according to government research released last September.
China has set a goal of reducing the emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) period. To reach this goal, the Chinese government proposed the concept of a "green GDP" and ordered local governments to develop their regional economies in line with the standards of "green GDP".
(Xinhua News Agency January 11, 2007)