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UPDATED: April 16, 2009
Polluters Told to Clean up Their Act
Polluters, watch out - you will be targeted in a new crackdown

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has its sights set on heavily polluting, high energy-consuming and resource-intensive industries, and is launching a campaign to protect the health of Chinese residents.

The focus will be on preventing pollution in areas used to provide drinking water, Environmental Minister Zhou Shengxian said at a teleconference held in Beijing yesterday.

Sewage-treatment plants and garbage landfill sites will also be supervised.

Han Yongwen, secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the commission will not approve heavily-polluting or high energy-consuming projects and will strictly verify environmental assessments.

Han added the NDRC won't approve or will postpone approval of projects for enterprises with environmental infringements.

The campaigns are carried out jointly with seven other State Council departments.

Last year, environmental departments sent out more than 1.6 million officers to inspect about 70,000 enterprises. To date they have punished 15,000 enterprises for breaking environmental laws. More than 100 local government officials and department officers have been investigated.

Han said environmental protection should be a significant factor in expanding the country's domestic demand and ensuring economic growth.

"The economic slowdown would put more pressure on environmental protection as some enterprises may be reluctant to turn on their pollution treatment facilities," Zhou said.

According to the MEP's random inspection in February, about 15.5 percent of projects started construction without approval. And about 9.6 percent of enterprises closed for environmental reasons resumed production without permission. Treatment facilities at about 25 percent of the main sources of pollution were not running properly.

Zhang Sujun, deputy minister of justice, said they will further publicize environmental laws and foster people's awareness of environmental protection.

The ministry will be committed to improving legal services for people and encouraging them to solve environmental disputes through legal procedures, Zhang said.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in his work report at this year's annual NPC session that China's energy consumption per unit of GDP dropped by 4.6 percent in 2008 from a year earlier.

Wen also announced the country reported a drop last year in both chemical oxygen demand (COD), a main index of water pollution, and the total emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a main air pollutant, by 4.4 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.

China vowed to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent per unit of GDP from 2005 levels, and emission of COD and SO2 by 10 percent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10).

State Council departments including the Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, State Administration for Industry & Commerce, State Administration of Work Safety and State Electricity Regulatory Commission, have pledged to fully cooperate with MEP and enforce their responsibilities.

(China Daily April 15, 2009)

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