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Yangtze Water Quality Remains Sound After Filling

The water quality of mainstream of the Yangtze River has remained sound, with the content of bacilli, oil and phosphor slightly exceeding set standards in its tributaries, since the Three Gorges Reservoir began to store water a year ago.

Zhang Shaozhi, director of the Chongqing Municipal Environmental Protection Administration, attributed the situation to painstaking environmental protection efforts at the areas around the reservoir and upstream.

To maintain good water quality of the Yangtze after the Three Gorges Reservoir began storing water, the Chinese government has implemented a 40-billion yuan (US$4.8 billion) plan aiming at building more than 320 facilities to dispose of sewage and waste discharged from reservoir area and upstream for 2001-2010.

When all the facilities are completed, 85 percent of the sewage and waste in the reservoir area will be timely disposed, Zhang said.

Currently, 81 percent of the waste and 61 percent of the sewage produced in Chongqing, the largest city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze with a population of 30 million, are handled by 30 waste and sewage disposal factories.

Before the Three Gorges Reservoir began to store water, nearly four million tons of household garbage and industrial waste had been thoroughly disposed of, all the medical waste of more than 600 hospitals and clinics had been burned, five million square meters of lavatories and more than 20,000 tombs had been disinfected in the Chongqing part of the reservoir.

However, Zhang said, the water quality of the Yangtze River's tributaries on the lower reaches became a little worse as water flows slowly after the reservoir began to function, which has reduced the self-adjusting ability of the tributaries, a problem attracting growing concern over the environment around the reservoir.

There are other problems -- some people are still not aware of the importance of environmental protection, the investment in environmental protection fell short of demand, some county-level environmental protection bureaus failed to fulfill their duty in basic environmental monitoring, and a few local governments broke the law to launch new projects that cause environmental pollution, the official said.

As a result, he said, soil erosion has not been fundamentally contained and the tributaries of the Yangtze River are facing heavier pollution.

"The situation remains grim and arduous work has to be done as far as environmental protection in the reservoir area is concerned," Zhang said.

Zhang, who is also deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, has kept appealing for a particular legislation on the unified management of the reservoir to ensure the safety and operation of the mammoth water conservancy hub.

There is no doubt a close connection between the reservoir area, wriggling 600 kilometers along central China's Hubei Province and Chongqing Municipality in the west, and other provinces at the lower reaches of the river, said Zhang.

"Only through legislation, can the rights and duties of the reservoir's main administrator and the other sides concerned be clearly defined," he added.

(China Daily June 7, 2004)

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