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Key Construction Projects Subject to Environmental Scrutiny
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The impact of more than a dozen multimillion-US-dollar projects will be closely monitored in a push to limit environmental damage, it has been revealed.

The 13 projects -- including the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the construction of pipes to transfer natural gas from the country's west to the east -- all have the capability to cause ecological damage, officials with the State Environmental Protection Administration said Wednesday.

They say the pilot move aims at establishing an environmental monitoring system throughout the entire construction process of all significant projects within the country.

In China, an environmental impact assessment must be undertaken before a construction project is started, while inspections must be carried out to see if the project causes pollution after it is completed.

Although such a system is feasible and effective for industrial sites, it cannot ensure that the construction of railways, roads and other similar projects will not have a negative environmental impact, said Xue Xiangzhong, deputy head of the administration's supervision division.

He said the major environmental impact of such projects usually took place during the building phase and by the time they are completed, ecological destruction is irreversible.

For example, Xue said mud is always discarded into nearby rivers when roads are being built and the water quality is gradually degraded.

He said in this case, environmental monitoring throughout the project is necessary to harmonize its economic and social functions with its surroundings.

The Chinese Government now requires the planning of construction projects to take ecological preservation into consideration.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway was designed and is being built using methods to protect soil, vegetation, animal and plant resources along its length.

But the environment is not the only concern, as China now also pays more attention to surveying and assessing cultural and historical relics before starting a construction project.

As part of the massive Three Gorges Project on the Yangtze River, governments at central and local levels, as well as construction departments, have drawn up plans and allocated millions of US dollars to rescue historic treasures in the dam area like the 1,700-year-old Zhangfei Temple and ancient Dachang Town, reputed for its Ming-Dynasty (1368-1644) style residential architecture.

(China Daily December 12, 2002)

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