The first national survey of pollution sources is to start in February, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said here Friday.
The survey will identify sources of industrial, agricultural and residential pollution and also calculate the number of environmental remediation facilities in operation, said Zhou Shengxian, the SEPA director, during a meeting held by the State Council.
It will take about two months to collect the data and each piece of information will be reviewed four times before being entered into the database, he said.
To maintain quality, random data samples will be checked again, he added.
The headquarters of the census has been established, comprised of officials from the SEPA and the Ministry of Agriculture, which manages agricultural pollution.
Every province, autonomous region and municipality has also setup an office to take charge of the census.
"The result of the census will not be linked to any punishment or evaluation of the performance of local administrations," Zhou said. Any administration, company or institution should not fear repercussions but should instead guarantee true, credible results, he said.
The country has been preparing for the census for more than a year. The central government allocated 737 million yuan (100 million U.S. dollars) to preparations in 2007.
The government is taking numerous measures to reduce pollution, but experts have complained about a lack of trustworthy statistics on the sources and extent of pollution and the number of remediation facilities.
These complaints led to the decision by the State Council in October 2006 to conduct the census.
"Collecting data of various pollution sources will be an important basis for environmental protection, a crucial gist for optimizing economic structure and an important step toward an environment-friendly society," said Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan at the same conference.
Meanwhile, environment statistics, monitoring and assessment systems should be improved, Zeng stressed, adding that findings of the pollution sources survey should be developed and applied.
Data collection will be completed in the first half of the year, and the data collected will be analyzed in the second half. In the first half of 2009, the survey findings will be examined and approved.
China faces the challenge of environmental deterioration amid its rapid economic development. According to the SEPA, sulfur dioxide emissions in 2005 were 27.8 percent higher than in 2000. During that same period, chemical oxygen demand (COD), a major index of water pollution, fell only 2.1 percent.
Water pollution has been worsening as well: 26 percent of surface water is totally unusable, 62 percent is unsuitable for fish and 90 percent of the rivers running through cities are polluted.
But, due to the persistent efforts, China managed to reduce the emission of main pollutants, sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the first nine months of 2007.
The energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) also dropped three percent year-on-year in the first three quarters of last year.