Efforts to boost domestic consumption during the economic downturn will also provide development opportunities for the environmental protection industry, a senior official said Wednesday.
Ling Jiang, director of the pollution prevention department at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said during an online interview at Gov.cn that investment in environmental protection projects could speed up as the government moves to promote infrastructure construction.
"As industries that consume large amounts of energy and generate lots of pollution are replaced, there is a good opportunity for governments to promote their industrial restructuring and upgrading policies," he said.
However, the government's 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) spending plan might also create new challenges, as some of the planned infrastructure projects could prove to be damaging to the environment, he said.
"We have to carefully assess the environmental impact of each of the planned projects," he said.
Commenting on efforts to clean up the country's waterways, Ling said China still faces "serious problems" in the sector.
The government also still has a long way to go to fulfill the goals it set for its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) to protect key rivers and lakes from pollution, he said.
The areas included in the plan include the Huai River, Taihu Lake and the Three Gorges reservoir.
However, over the past three years, just one-third of the spending planned for waterways has been forthcoming, Lin said.
Despite some improvements being made, such as in the Huai River, there is still much work to be done, he said.
Difficulties remain with regard to the development of high energy consuming industries, the prevention of industrial discharges into the nation's waterways, and agricultural pollution caused by the use of chemicals and pesticide, he said.
"Achieving good water quality may take a very long time," Lin said.
"We have seen from the experience of other countries that cleaning up rivers can take between 30 and 50 years."
(China Daily December 11, 2008)