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Pollution cut task on track
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China is likely to complete its mandated emission cuts of major pollutants ahead of schedule, a senior official from the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) told China Daily yesterday.

By the end of 2008, the country had registered a drop in chemical oxygen demand (COD), a key test of water pollution, and the total emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2), the chief air pollutant, by 6.61 percent and 8.95 percent, respectively, from the 2005 level.

A thermal power plant, installed with desulfurization and dedusting devices, operates in Shenyang, Liaoning province. CFP

A thermal power plant, installed with desulfurization and dedusting devices, operates in Shenyang, Liaoning province. CFP

"The first quarter of this year also saw a steady plunge in the two indices," said Zhao Hualin, director of the total emission control department under the MEP. "So, it is very likely that the country will achieve its green targets earlier than expected."

The country's 11th five-year plan goal was to reduce COD and SO2 emissions by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of environmental protection, said earlier that China "will not relax its efforts in environmental protection and be over-satisfied with its achievements in 2008."

He said the task this year was to reduce 1.9 million tons of SO2 and 1.12 million tons of COD emissions.

However, some enterprises may slacken efforts at pollution treatment to save on costs amid the global economic downturn, said Zhao. This posed a challenge to the environment protection effort, he said

Meanwhile, the current projects-based measures to curb pollution have reached their limits, reducing the future capacity for emission reduction, he noted.

For instance, China required all its coal-fired power plants to install sulfur scrubbers to reduce SO2 emissions. By the end of 2008, more than 60 percent of China's thermal power generating units had been equipped with such facilities, compared to 12 percent in 2005.

"The remaining capacity is reducing, forcing us to find new battlegrounds for emission reduction. For instance, the sintering process at steel mills is also a major SO2 emitter," said Zhao.

Similarly, the country has spent a lot of money in constructing sewage treatment facilities at both factories and urban areas, but water pollution in rural areas, especially from livestock breeding, still poses a great challenge.

"Strong technical inputs are needed to solve these problems," said Zhao.

The MEP and some research institutes are currently drafting the environment management plan for the 12th five-year plan (2011-15), according to Zhao.

The country is poised to strengthen its efforts to slash SO2 and COD emissions during the next five years, but the detailed target is still being discussed.

New pollution indicators, such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), which is discharged from vehicles and power plants, and which causes acid rain; and ammonia nitrogen, another major measure of water quality, are likely to be included in the emission control list.

(China Daily June 5, 2009)

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