A Chinese environment watchdog has closed 52 polluting factories in the Huaihe River basin in order to stop serious water contamination in the region, the State Environmental Protection Administration announced Sunday in Beijing.
Among the 52 factories, 67 per cent are from paper-making and chemical manufacturing industries; another 6 per cent are medicine makers and 17 per cent wine makers. The other 10 per cent come from other industries.
Pan Yue, vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration released the information when making public the results of a recent investigation on pollution in the Huaihe River area.
From May 28 to June 11, the State Environmental Protection Administration sent out three groups to inspect 165 factories which were believed to be major pollution sources of the Huaihe River.
They also inspected 30 domestic sewage treatment plants, 65 tributaries and 155 main sections on the Huaihe River in 21 cities and 91 counties and districts along the river.
The investigation revealed that many enterprises in Huaihe area often illegally released excessive wastes into the river.
Investigations found that 31.5 per cent of the 165 factories inspected discharged excessive waste water into the river.
Seventeen sewage treatment plants were found not to be operating properly, accounting for 56.7 per cent of the 30 inspected.
According to Pan, the average water quality in Huaihe River is still very poor on the average. Most branches of the river such as Wohe, Chihe and Bei Feihe are heavily polluted and their water quality is below level III, a standard at which water can be drinkable after treatment.
Moreover, the total volume of discharged waste is too huge for the capacity of the environment.
Both environmental officials and experts said rapid increase in population and the fast growth of industry are mainly to blame for the situation.
In the three years between 2001 and 2003, the population in the Huaihe region has grown by 20 million and now amounts to 170 million.
The building of more industrial plants has meant domestic and industrial wastes have also increased and have become a major source of the aggravated water quality in the Huaihe River.
The level of local protectionism is one of the root causes of further deterioration in the environment, Pan said.
It was very common for governments at different levels in the region to give priority to economic development while not attaching enough importance to environment protection. They even sacrificed the latter to achieve GDP increases.
Inadequate investment in pollution control projects is another reason.
Up to now, only 33 per cent of the Huaihe River pollution control investment for the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) period has been fulfilled. In some provinces the rate is only 20 per cent.
Only 27 per cent of the 488 projects set by the Five-Year Plan are finished and only 35 per cent are presently being built.
Construction of 91 domestic sewage treatment plants has not been started in 85 cities in the region. Although some plants have been built, they are working inefficiently.
In Anhui Province, none of the 29 projects for domestic sewage treatment plants has been finished and 82.8 per cent have not even been started.
Meanwhile, the economic structure in the region is not healthy. Papermaking, wine and beverage making, chemical production, leather and printing and dyeing are the five dominant industries.
These heavily polluting industries contribute to only 26.6 per cent of the economic growth while their chemical oxygen depletions(COD) account for 78.4 per cent of the total industrial discharge and their ammonia and nitrogen discharges are 94.2 per cent of the total.
What's more, non-industrial pollution is also an important factor. Seventy per cent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides remain in soil and agriculture products and they eventually run off back into the water system.
Unfortunately, farmers in the region are using more and more chemicals.