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China to curb worsening offshore pollution
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China will go all out to check ever worsening damage to offshore ecology caused mainly by the discharge of land-borne pollutants this year, according to a top Chinese marine official.

The pledge was made by Sun Zhihui, director of the State Oceanic administration (SOA), while addressing an ongoing annual conference held in Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province.

Industry experts blame people's poor awareness of the harm done to marine ecology by pollutants discharged by coastal cities.

Many cities discharge raw sewage into offshore waters without treatment, said Sun.

Sun promised that his organization would tighten monitor of the ecology of China's offshore waters and make experiments with restoring marine ecology through establishing seven special protective zones this year, including two marine nature reserves.

SOA will be more strict with approving procedures to ban new projects that fall short of standards for aspects such as environmental assessment, protection and energy efficiency from getting started. In the past, the rules have been waived on some projects.

All builders of marine construction projects must present detail of their gross control targets for sulphur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (OCD), said Sun.

SOA will vigorously carry out other ecological restoration projects by growing mangrove, developing sea grass patches and seaside wetlands at coastal sections ranging from Yellow River estuary-Laizhou Bay, Xiamen bay, Minjiang estuary, to the areas off the eastern coast of Hainan Island.

China has a coastline of 18,000 km and China's seas contributed more than 2.49 trillion yuan (347 billion U.S. dollars), or 10 percent, of the country's gross domestic product last year, according to a SOA report on Feb. 15 this year.

The report said the value of marine industries, including fishing, transport, oil and gas, tourism and shipbuilding, grew 15 percent year on year, more than the rate of the economy as a whole. Some traditional industries such as transportation, tourism and fishing, accounted for more than 80 percent of the total value of the marine economy, said SOA spokesman Li Haiqing.

Emerging industries, for example, the oceanic biological pharmacy, which generated more than 4 billion yuan last year, also grew swiftly, according to the report.

The marine industry employed 31.5 million people last year, 1.9 million more than in 2006, the report said.

China will emphasize quality ahead of speed in its efforts to develop the marine economy during the 11th five-year plan (2006-2010). By the end of 2010, the country's seas will be able to contribute 11 percent of the country's GDP and create more than 1 million jobs each year, said the plan.

(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)

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