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Provincial Officials Promise to Close Loopholes
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Leading officials from Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces have vowed to close any loopholes that might could lead to pollution and establish a rapid-response system for emergencies as well as an information-sharing mechanism to prevent serious pollution in the Songhua River.

Pollution in the river, which traverses the two provinces in northeast China, has been a source of tension between them.

The situation culminated in 2005 when a chemical spill caused by an explosion at a factory in Jilin, Jilin Province, created a toxic slick on the river, forcing downstream cities in Heilongjiang to suspend their normal water supplies. The accident inflicted huge economic losses on both provinces.

"We now firmly rule out any projects within the river basin that fail to follow the country's industrial policy or that do not include water pollution prevention measures," said Jiao Zhengzhong, Jilin vice-governor.

Jiao said the province had rejected 26 development projects that would have led to heavy pollution since the accident.

The province has also started inspecting 129 operations along the river to identify and close any loopholes that could pose a risk of causing pollution.

High-risk companies like the Jilin Petrochemical Corporation, where the blast occurred, have been told to put in place a three-tier risk-prevention system, he said.

Jiao, who was also the city's Party secretary at the time of the accident, travelled to Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang, to apologize for the incident.

Liu Xueliang, vice-governor of Heilongjiang, said the province would improve communications with Jilin.

"We will share more information and act according to an agreed consensus to cope with any pollution emergencies, " he said.

Meng Wei, director of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said the rapid-response mechanism should involve a surveillance system for the whole basin at the macro level as well as prevention and control systems for each company at the micro level.

"The rapid-response mechanism for emergencies should extend to producers to allow for early detection," he said.

"Should something go wrong during any part of the production process, the company should have the ability to minimize its impact or even nip the danger in the bud. "

(China Daily May 11, 2007)

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