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Pollution Control Targets Not Met Last Year
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Having failed to meet emission reduction targets in 2006, the Chinese government yesterday promised to do better on pollution control.


"We’re optimistic that we can meet the target by taking a series of concrete measures," Zhou Shengxian, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a high-level conference in Beijing mapping out the country’s green efforts.  


The goal had been to reduce Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)--a water pollution index--and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 2 percent last year as part of an ambitious plan to cut them by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010.


But last year SO2 emissions increased by nearly 463,000 tons. This was 1.8 percent higher than the previous year, said Fan Yuansheng, director of the pollution control department of the SEPA. COD reached 14.31 million tons or 1.2 percent up on 2005.


Some measures such as the installation of sulphur dioxide scrubbing facilities and shutting down small steel, cement and power plants have shown positive results as the increase of the main pollutants in 2006 slowed from the year before.  


According to Fan the aim for China was to reduce its SO2 and COD emissions by 3.2 million tons and 1.23 million tons respectively this year.


But according to a report from a SEPA groups of experts, if China's economy grew by 9 percent this year, another 2.4 million tons of SO2 would be discharged and COD would increase by 0.9 million tons.


Some leading environmental scientists, including Zhou Dali and Hao Jiming, say China's pollution levels will not start to go down in real terms until next year. Emission cuts could be out of reach because of high economic growth, a large amount of coal burning and the limited effect of treatment facilities, they said.


Last year China's economy grew by 10.7 percent. Coal use increased by nearly 230 million tons and resulted in the release of 2.8 million tons of sulphur dioxide, the SEPA figures show.


Meanwhile the output of paper products, one of the major sources of COD, reached more than 58 million tons. This is up 20 percent over 2005.


The government also planned to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 per cent by 2010. No official figures are available to indicate if targets are being met but earlier reports said it was unlikely.


(China Daily February 13, 2007)

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