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China moves to curb pollution in Songhua river
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Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province has shut down 110 polluting enterprises to curb pollution in the Songhua River.

The provincial government inspected 4,061 enterprises that emit pollution, shut down 110 and suspended 173 in a three-month campaign which ended early July, said Li Ping, head of the Heilongjiang provincial bureau of environmental protection.

The Songhua River was seriously polluted when 100 tons of benzene-related pollutants flowed into the river after a chemical plant explosion in Jilin city on the upper reaches of the river in 2005.

The contamination forced Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, to temporarily suspend water supply to 3.8 million people.

The pollution also raised concerns in Russia as the river empties into the Heilongjiang River that divides China and Russia.

Jinlin city in Jilin Province has installed a sewage treatment plant that cost 620 million yuan so 90 percent of domestic and industrial sewage can be processed.

Mingshui county, Heilongjiang, has also shut down two foreign-invested enterprises, which accounted for one third of the county's foreign direct investment.

Automatic devices have been put into use for real-time monitoring of the water quality of the Songhua River and Heilong River.

Wang Xun, an entrepreneur from the coastal city of Wenzhou who set up a corn starch plant in Mingshui this year, invested 15 million yuan to add an environmental protection facility to the plant.

"The local government has been telling me that environmental protection is the responsibility of enterprises and the prerequisite of sustainable development," Wang said.

The Chinese government drew up a plan last year to curb pollution in the tainted Songhua River and aims to make 90 percent of water drinkable by 2010. The plan includes 222 pollution control projects with a combined investment of 13.36 billion yuan (1.77 billion U.S. dollars).

Almost 40 percent of pollution control projects have been completed or are well underway, according to an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

Three northeastern provinces shut down 42 factories failing to control pollution in the Songhua River valley in the first six months of this year, reducing the pollutant discharges by about 6,327 tons in terms of the chemical oxygen demand, the official said.

Li Ping said that water in Songhua River has shown sign of improvement.

The official said water quality temporarily reached Class Three, which is drinkable, last month and was "better than the corresponding period last year" in Sanjiangkou, where the Songhua River joins Heilong River before it flows downstream into Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang and the Russian Far East city of Khabarovsk.

The improvement in water quality was also attributed to a marked decrease in rainfall this summer.

Fish from Sanjiangkou tasted better than in the previous years, local fishermen were quoted by the official as saying.

(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2007)

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