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China reports decline in major pollutant emissions
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China's emissions of major pollutants - sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (COD) - over the first nine months of the year dropped for the first time in several years, a senior official with the state environmental watchdog said in Zhengzhou of Henan Province on Wednesday.

"Sulfur dioxide emissions in China fell a year-on-year 1.81 percent in the first three quarters, and the COD (a measure of water pollution) dropped 0.28 percent," Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said.

Under huge pressure to curb the deterioration of its environment, China has committed itself to improving energy efficiency by cutting energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP, along with a 10 percent cut in major pollutants, between 2006 and 2010.

However, China missed both the energy conservation and discharge reduction goals last year. The country's discharge of sulfur dioxide and the COD saw year-on-year increases of 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent in 2006.

In June this year, the Chinese government issued a work plan on energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction, which pledged the country would reduce its discharge of sulfur dioxide from 25.49 million tons in 2005 to 22.95 million tons in 2010, and the COD from 14.14 million tons to 12.73 million tons.

Zhou attributed the current decrease in the two major pollutants mainly to the installation of more desulfurizing facilities in coal-fire power plants, the increase of sewage handling capacity and the closure of a large number of polluting factories.

However, a report previously released by SEPA said China's overall environmental situation was still "serious" with frequent pollution accidents affecting the quality of life for many people.

Last year, 842 pollution accidents were reported, including 482 cases of water pollution and 232 cases of air pollution.

(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2007)

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