More than 31.5 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion) has been plowed into initiatives since 2001 aimed at controlling water pollution in some of the country's major rivers and lakes.
Under the investment, which will continue through the end of next year, the central government and local agencies have completed nearly 500 projects, and can now treat more than 7.9 million tons of waste water each day.
However, officials said yesterday such a massive achievement is not nearly enough progress, and they urged local governments to continue giving more support to related projects.
Regions along and around the three rivers and three lakes - Huaihe, Haihe and Liaohe rivers and Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi lakes - which include 11 provinces and Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai municipalities - suffer from serious pollution.
For example, half of the Huaihe River's tributaries are seriously polluted and in a few monitoring sections along the river, the pollution index is worsening.
A pollution control plan was developed for the Taihu Lake region in 2001 and similar plans for the other five lakes came out last year, according to Pan Yue, vice-minister of State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
The plans involve 1,534 pollution treatment projects, including waste water treatment plants, and require an investment of more than 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion).
All the projects are scheduled to be completed by 2005.
In addition to the already completed efforts, 389 are under construction.
Despite the achieved results, Pan said many factors are hindering the complete fulfillment of the pollution plans. He said local governments' enforcement of environment related laws and regulations and implementation of relevant policies are not perfect enough.
For example, almost no waste water treatment plants designed for counties and townships have been started and the collection of fees for waste water treatment is poorly done in most regions with the exception of the Taihu River region.
Meanwhile, the treatment of waste water in many places fails to meet national standards, said Zhang Lijun, head of the pollution control under the administration.
Pan urged local governments to launch the construction of the rest of the planned projects this year, make the charging systems for waste water treatment more effective, and build up market systems for waste water treatment.
"Local governments also need to seek funds for the projects and take measures to reduce the discharge of pollutants by local industries," he said.
According to Pan, licensing of waste discharge will be carried out among 5,000 major enterprises in the regions of the three rivers and three lakes to prevent them from illegally letting out waste.
Zhang said the State Development and Reform Commission and his administration are jointly doing research on how to re-use treated waste water.
(China Daily February 17, 2004)