The Chinese environmental watchdog is racing against time to clean up the country's polluted waterways before 2005.
"The pollution is not going to worsen as rapidly as it did, butthe total discharge amount is still too high," Pan Yue, deputy director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), told a press conference here Monday.
The main waterways mentioned by Pan include three main rivers --the Liaohe, running through northeast China's Liaoning Province, the Haihe, in northern China, and the Huaihe, in eastern China; and three lakes -- Taihu Lake on the border between Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, Chaohu Lake in Anhui Province and Dianchi Lakein Yunnan Province.
"As industries prosper and cities balloon, pollutants and sewage are pouring into these waterways in increasing amounts," said Zhang Lijun, head of SEPA's pollution control department.
A five-year cleaning plan launched in 2001 seemed to go too slowly -- it planned to clean the waterways before 2005 by building 1,534 disposal projects, but only 30 percent of this planhad been completed by the end of 2003.
According to the latest monthly report, half of the Huaihe's branches are heavily polluted, and the Haihe and Liaohe are running short of clean water for daily use. Chaohu and Dianchi lakes have a high rate of organic pollution.
"The plan is short of 72.5 billion yuan, 70 percent of its planned investment, because some local governments are reluctant to invest," said Pan, adding that half of the projects cannot be put into operation by 2005.
According to Pan, the SEPA will urge local governments to keep their investment promises, and establish an emission-charge systemto attract private investors. It will also enforce an emission licensing system upon 5,000 manufacturers located along the aforementioned rivers and lakes, and remove serious polluters suchas paper makers.
A disposal network will be built to prevent sewage from being discharged into water, and an automatic surveillance system is to be installed at the pollution sources and provincial borders.
"This means that we have to finish 70 percent of the plan in two years' time. Mission impossible? Anyway, we are going to try, " said Pan, who described this decision as a race against time.