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Pollution Accidents Call for Effective Supervision
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Six petrochemical companies in east China's Jiangsu Province are under orders to improve waste treatment and reduce pollution in the Yangtze and other rivers.


The companies, including the Yangtze Petrochemical Company and Jinling Petrochemical Company, were ordered to address environmental safety problems by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).


SEPA launched a comprehensive national review of chemical and petrochemical projects near major water areas from February 7.


Environmental protection officials inspected 127 projects and found 20 large plants with grave environmental safety problems, including 11 along the Yangtze, China's longest waterway, one on the Yellow River and two at the Daya Bay, involving the sectors of oil refining, ethylene and methanol.


SEPA has ordered those in charge to take immediate measures to address the problems. An additional 1.62 billion yuan (US$157 million) has been allocated for environmental safety facilities at the 20 projects.


Environmental risks could not be resolved overnight, and only a long-term effective legal mechanism and supervision by the public would achieve long-term environmental safety of China's rivers and water areas, said Pan Yue, deputy director with SEPA.


His words reflect the aspiration of China's environment protection chiefs and the general public for an effective supervision mechanism to prevent environmental pollution.


Seventy-six water pollution incidents have been reported since the toxic chemical spill in northeast China's Songhua River last November. The only set target the government failed to realize during the 2001-2005 period was that of environmental protection, said Premier Wen Jiabao at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) last month.


Since 2004, SEPA has launched several anti-pollution drives targeting enterprises operating without permission or discharging pollutants in violation of national laws.


Early last year, SEPA suspended construction on 30 large projects with a total investment of 117.9 billion yuan on the grounds of environmental protection, a move demonstrating the government's resolve to stop pollution at source and to achieve sustainable development.


The government proposed a conservationist and environment-friendly society in its 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010).


Following the Songhua River incident, SEPA kicked off a nationwide inspection on environmental safety and launched trials in ten provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, to calculate GDP taking environmental factors into account.


These measures showed that SEPA was working to establish a long-term supervision mechanism, which is expected to help building an environment-friendly society, said Wang Rong, a professor with prestigious Nanjing University in Jiangsu Province.


Meanwhile, the government has raised the penalties for officials who are in charge of enterprises which pollute heavily.


Last year, 27 officials involved in seven pollution incidents were prosecuted and convicted. And Xie Zhenhua resigned as SEPA director due to the Songhua River spill.


(Xinhua News Agency April 10, 2006)

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