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Pilot project to assess environmental impact
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The environmental impact of development plans in five regions and five heavily polluted industries will be assessed by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) in a bid to improve the threatened environment.

A council of 39 experts will review the environmental impact of the economy to help draft eco-friendly policies, said Pan Yue, vice-minister of the SEPA, at an international conference which opened in Beijing on Saturday.

Called strategic environmental assessment, the review aims to provide high-level environmental protection and contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programs to promote sustainable development.

Pan identified the regions as: The middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River where energy projects are densely located, and the economic zones to the west of the Taiwan Straits, along Beibu Gulf in south China, the Bohai Rim in north China and Chengdu-Chongqing.

The industries are steel, petrochemicals, power, paper making, and coal chemicals.

Similar pilot projects have been implemented in 10 cities, provinces and autonomous regions.

The country has started to pay the price for industrial development which neglects environmental impact, Pan said.

Citing an example, he said that a third of the 75 largest steel plants are located in cities with populations of more than 1 million.

In Xiamen of Fujian Province, known for its pretty seaside views, a large chemical plant project led to strong protests among residents in June and construction was suspended.

The country conducts environmental impact evaluations of single projects, for instance, power stations.

The SEPA has been working on a regulation on environmental impact evaluation of government policies and plans for two years but it has not been published yet.

"Some industries and local governments oppose such a policy, based on their own interests," Pan said.

But the draft regulation has been submitted to the State Council, he said.

"Many reasons have led to environmental deterioration, such as pursuit of short-term economic interests, lack of economic-environmental policy tools, or lack of environmental responsibility tracing system for officials," Pan said.

"But the fundamental reason for environmental problems is the absence of a general plan for industrial distribution."

(Xinhua News Agency November 5, 2007)

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