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New Plan to Clean Up Songhua River
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Authorities in northeast China's Jilin Province have announced a new target for improving the water quality of the Songhua River, one of the most heavily polluted in the country.

The target requires that by 2010, the total amount of chemical oxygen demand (COD) in key pollutants discharged into the river be reduced by 14.4 percent from 2005 levels, to less than 225,000 tons.

It also urges "high-risk" companies situated along the river to develop rapid-response systems for dealing with pollution emergencies.

"We will spare no effort to realize the target. We will closely monitor the major polluters along the river, and those who do not make the corrections within the timeframe will be ordered to stop production at once, " Jiao Zhengzhong, Jilin's vice-governor, said.

Plants that are not equipped to properly dispose of their sewage or fail to meet the waste-discharge standards will also be shut down, and the person in charge will be punished, he said.

"The local government is also working on a deadline to phase out outdated small and medium-size companies across 13 industries, including iron and steel, cement and papermaking, which are known for being heavy polluters," Jiao said.

The target also demands all thermal power plants with a capacity of up to 1,427 MW be closed within the next three years. Those with a capacity of less than 275 MW will be closed by the end of this year.

Wang Guocai, director of Jilin's environmental protection bureau, said a centralized online system will also be introduced this year to monitor the operations of several wastewater treatment plants in Liaoyuan, Jilin, Siping, Songyuan and Yanji.

Also, fees will be collected for the treatment of sewage, which will be used to pay for the construction and operation of central treatment facilities, he said.

The ecological condition of the Songhua River and its tributaries has been steadily deteriorating, with the latter being more polluted last year than they were in 2005, Wang said.

In November 2005, the river was seriously affected by an explosion at a petrochemical plant located at its upper reaches, which spilled large amounts of benzene and nitrobenzene into the water.

Millions of people in the city of Harbin at the river's lower reaches were left without tap water for several days.

(China Daily June 26, 2007)

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