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Rural pollution top priority for MEP
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China will ramp up its investment to curb rural pollution, as environmental problems in the country's vast countryside are "increasingly prominent", vice-minister of environmental protection Zhang Lijun told a press conference in Beijing on Friday.

Rural pollution top priority for MEP

Pollution has aggravated in rural areas due to chemical fertilizers, pesticides and livestock breeding, according to a report published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on China's environmental situation.

The increasing industrial and mining wastes in the countryside are also threatening the safety of drinking water, the report said.

Zhang said the central government would spend 1 billion yuan this year as subsidies for villages to set up pollution treatment facilities. Last year, 500 million yuan from the central funds was diverted to nearly 700 villages where over 4 million rural people live.

"The deteriorating environment in the countryside not only is a problem for rural people but also threatens urban residents, since the rural areas supply a huge amount of the food products consumed in big cities," said Zhuang Guotai, director of nature and ecological protection department under the MEP.

China continued to promote methane-generating facilities in the countryside last year, the report said. By the end of 2008, 30.5 million rural households were using methane generated from animal waste for cooking.

The report also shows that the air quality in most of the cities is improving. Among the 519 cities that reported air quality data in 2008, about 400 cities reached Grade II, meaning the overall air quality is good.

Zhang Lijun cautioned on the possible transfer of pollution from the cities to rural areas.

The surface water pollution is still serious, the report said.

China has continued to reduce the emissions of two key pollutants in the first quarter of 2009, Zhang said the sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand, a major index of water pollution, dropped 4.9 percent and 2.9 percent respectively.

The ministry will also strictly monitor the country's 4-trillion-yuan economic stimulus package to ensure that funds are not spent on energy-intensive and heavy-polluting industries.

Since the plan was unveiled last November, MEP has rejected or postponed 29 projects, such as petrochemical plants, steel factories and thermal power plants, involving a total budget of 147 billion yuan, he said.

(China Daily June 6, 2009)

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