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Polluting cities, firms punished ahead of Olympics
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China meted out penalties to four cities and 10 power firms for their failures in meeting anti-pollution requirements just weeks before the Olympic Games.

Pre-construction environmental evaluation was halted for all new projects that can increase carbon oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, in the Yingtan city of east China's Jiangxi Province, Sanya City of the Hainan Province, Hechi City of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yuxi City of Yunnan Province.

The decision was made by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and other three government departments because the four cities' sewage treating plants had "lagged too much in construction, run below capacity for a long time or not been in operation without reasons," Xinhua learnt on Tuesday.

New projects in China must pass environmental impact assessments before being approved, according to regulations.

The government agencies also suspended such assessments for all thermal power projects of China Resources Power Holdings Co., Ltd., Guizhou Jinyuan Group Co., Ltd. and Shanxi International Electricity Group Limited Company, because the three firms had failed to construct and operate sulphur-eliminating facilities by the end of 2007.

In another seven power companies, including four under the country's leading power groups, sulfur-eliminating facilities had been found in "abnormal operation". They were ordered to correct the problems, turn in part of their revenues from electricity charges and pay back fees for discharging sulphur dioxide.

The penalties were based on an assessment of the work to reduce major pollutant emission in the country's localities and five leading power groups in 2007.

"Some problems still existed though China intensified efforts to cut pollution," said the ministry.

Last year, China reported a drop in both sulphur dioxide emissions and carbon oxygen demand for the first time, with the two indicators falling 3.14 percent and 4.66 percent respectively from 2006.

In 2006, the country set a target of cutting its energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product value by 20 percent and emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent by the year 2010.

(Xinhua News Agency July 16, 2008)

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