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Rain hindering pollutant reduction efforts: Minister
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08:49, August 29, 2007

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The government should boost efforts to improve the country's urban water pipe system and pay more to attention to separating rainwater from sewage in order to meet its pollutants-reduction goal, leading construction officials said yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the Second International Conference for China Urban Water Development yesterday, Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, painted a bleak prospect for the country reaching its target on pollutants reduction.

The government has set a target of reducing major pollutants by 10 percent by 2010.

However, official statistics for the first half of the year show only a slight year-on-year decrease in sulfur dioxide and a minor increase in the chemical oxygen demand (COD), an index for water pollutants.

Qiu said despite fast growth in both the number and processing capability of processing plants in urban areas, an increasing amount of wastewater is being produced by the country's more than 20,000 towns and in its vast rural areas, which are devoid of treatment facilities.

Wang Guangtao, construction minister, said at the conference the government has set the goal to treat not less than 70 percent of all urban wastewater by 2010, 18 percentage points more than in 2005. It also seeks to reduce the COD discharge figure by 10 percent by 2010 compared with the level in 2005.

However, to achieve that goal, Qiu said it was essential to "stop the sewage being diluted by rain" before it reaches treatment plants, a process often overlooked by local governments, he said.

Sewage with a high density of pollutants becomes diluted after mixing with rain, which affects the COD reduction function of the plants.

"Without the separation, it is impossible to achieve the pollutants reduction goal," Qiu said.

Zhang Yue, deputy director-general of the urban construction department, said a recent survey by the construction ministry found that more than 300 treatment plants were receiving wastewater with a COD density of less than 200 mg per liter.

"That means about one-third of the country's wastewater processing capability is being used to reduce just 10 percent of the COD," Zhang said.

"It is like processing water, not pollutants."

Zhang said the current appraisal system for wastewater processing plants, which pays more attention to disposal rate and standards than the reduced amount of COD, is misleading and unsuitable for pollutants reduction.

In collaboration with Ministry of Finance, Zhang said the construction ministry was considering a mechanism that would measure how much of the COD amount processing plants actually reduce, and then use this for gauging their operational fees and rewards.

Source: China Daily

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