Progress on pollution mixed – Chinese regulators

Environmental regulators in China have published pollution statistics which show that while some progress is being made at curbing the rise of certain pollutants, other toxic chemicals are still on the increase in the country.

The report looks at data from the first six months of 2007 and has been jointly issued by the country’s State Administration of Environment Protection (SEPA), the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Development and Reform Commission.

Emissions of sulphur dioxide, the chemical largely responsible for acid rain, fell by 0.88% to 12.63m tonnes during the period.

But this small success was undermined by poor results in the area of chemical oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, which rose by 0.24% in the first six months of this year.

SEPA put the progress on sulphur dioxide down to the installation of emissions scrubbers at coal-fired power stations across the country.

Over a third (36%) of existing power stations are now fitted with such devices, according the the report, compared with 30% by the end of last year.

Several small, inefficient coal power plants were also closed down in an effort to reduce national emissions.

Water pollution continues to rise, however, despite efforts to significantly increase the capacity of water treatment facilities in the country and tighter controls on heavy polluters such as paper mills and detergent manufacturers.

“China still faces grave pollution control tasks this year, and the most prominent problem lies in some local cadres, who are still blind to the importance of the scientific development model,” said SEPA official Zhao Hualin.

“The economy has grown at an unexpectedly rapid rate in some local areas, mostly at the cost of the environment, and the supervision departments at the grass-roots level are barely functioning.”

Pollution control efforts are also being frustrated by weak legal backing for environmental protection and insufficient investment in pollutant-cutting facilities, he added.

David Gibbs

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