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Taihu Lake Overhaul After Algae Outbreak
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Provincial officials in Jiangsu in east China, the theater of a recent water pollution scare, have put on record their promises to clean up Taihu Lake by closing small, non environmentally-friendly manufacturing plants, knowing that future generations will be there to judge them.

A provincial meeting on Saturday said the province had launched a comprehensive investigation of businesses on Taihu Lake -- ranging from chemical, pharmaceutical, metallurgical, printing and dyeing and paper making industries to electroplating services.

A total of 2,150 small chemical firms will be eliminated by the end of 2008, according to the information.

Participants at the meeting also said they were determined to introduce a host of other measures to eradicate water pollution from Taihu Lake over a period of 15 years.

Jiangsu will encourage industries featuring high technology, high efficiency, low energy consumption and less pollution and raise the proportion of service companies and high-tech ventures. The province will adopt a strict environmental access system and say no to businesses that use obsolete technologies and equipment, or cause serious pollution. Areas which have breached pollution control limits will be refused the launch new projects involving the discharge of pollutants.

In addition to banning all new projects involving nitrogen and phosphor discharges, the province will also implement stricter water pollution control standards in the Taihu Lake drainage area in order to force firms dotted around the lake to improve pollution treatment facilities and reduce discharges.

The province will improve sewage treatment capacities in cities in the lake area and promote centralized treatment of sewage and trash in rural areas.

Jiangsu, which raised pollutant discharge levies beginning July 1, is also considering setting aside funds to support key water pollution treatment projects in Taihu Lake.

Cities and counties in the lake drainage area are required to increase funding for treatment of water pollution in Taihu Lake.

One of the most densely populated regions in China, the Taihu Lake drainage area receives 56 billion tons of sewage discharge each year.

However, about 30 million people rely on Taihu Lake, China's third largest freshwater lake, for drinking water, including nine cities in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang as well as Shanghai Municipality.

A severe algae outbreak at the end of May rendered tap water undrinkable for a week for half of the 2.3 million residents in Wuxi, a city in eastern Jiangsu Province.

By mid-June, a second algae bloom appeared in the central-western and northern parts of the lake, covering 800 square kilometers and causing widespread concern in cities around the lake.

High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are believed to be major causes of algae blooms, which develop in water that is rich in nutrients.

Water pollution in the lake has aroused the concern of the central government, which has demanded that no more nitrogen or phosphorus discharging industrial projects be approved along the lake.

Apart from Taihu Lake, blue-green algae outbreaks have been reported in Chaohu Lake and southwestern Dianchi Lake since May, and have threatened the local tap water supply.

(Xinhua News Agency July 9, 2007)

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