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Pollution Picture to Brighten
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The nation will reach a "turning point" this year in the battle to control pollution, the top environment watchdog said yesterday.

Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said major pollutant discharges will drop slightly by the end of this year, the first time in several years.

He told a news briefing that though the total amount of pollutant discharges rose last year, the rate of increase was slower than the previous year.

"With the country installing more pollution control facilities and stepping up economic restructuring and policy enforcement, there will be a further drop," said Zhang.

"I'm confident that this year, the total pollutant discharges will reach a turning point," Zhang said, without giving further details.

Initial data analysis shows that sulfur dioxide emissions fell 0.3 percent in the first quarter, while the discharge of chemical oxygen demand, a water pollution index, increased by a slight 0.4 percent.

"Most of the new pollutant-control facilities were put into use last December, so they will show an effect this year," said Zhang.

Meanwhile, the rate of waste water treatment rose from 52 percent to 57 percent in urban areas last year.

By next year, electronic monitors will be installed at waste discharge outlets in more than 6,000 major chemical factories, which account for about 65 percent of all major pollutant discharges in the country, said Zhang.

A SEPA report released yesterday on the environment situation in 2006 shows the water quality remained about the same as the previous year.

Of the 745 monitored water bodies, 40 percent were of drinkable quality, 32 percent polluted and the rest heavily polluted, including the Liaohe River and Haihe River.

The air condition improved last year. Of the 559 cities monitored, those whose air condition was relatively good increased by 4.7 percent, while the number of cities whose air condition was bad dropped by 2.1 percent.

SEPA is also making increased efforts to promote local governments' awareness of environment protection.

According to an official plan unveiled on Monday, the focus of local government officials' performance evaluation will be on energy-saving and emission-reduction efforts.

Zhang also said that SEPA will release a new set of Green GDP reports later this year to evaluate the environment cost on GDP growth. Issue of the reports was halted in March after a trial of several years, reportedly because local governments raised objections.

China promised last year to reduce major pollutant discharges by 10 percent and energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent by 2010.

Despite a failure to meet the annual goal last year, officials reiterated on Monday that the original targets would stay.

(China Daily June 6, 2007)

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