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China To Monitor Petrochemical Industry For Pollution

Copyright AFP
by Staff Writers
Beijing, China (AFP) Feb 07, 2006
China is to conduct environmental assessments on 127 petrochemical plants following a series of serious pollution disasters, the state environmental bureau said Wednesday.

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) has started to carry out environmental risk assessment on those plants along rivers and in areas with dense populations or nature reserves.

"The chemical industry is an obvious area were hidden dangers could result in both regional and structural environmental problems," SEPA vice director Pan Yue said in a statement on its website.

The 127 plants, with some 450 billion yuan (55.7 billion dollars) in investment, were considered key plants in the industry, he said.

Already 21 of the plants have been cited for violating environmental protection regulations and faced punishments and further monitoring for compliance, Pan said.

SEPA, once seen as a powerless agency with little clout in implementing environmental policy, has been given new life since the government of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao came into power in 2003.

Pan said a recent toxic spill in the northeast province of Heilongjiang also spurred the administration into action.

The benzene spill on the Songhua river in November resulted in public water supplies to four million residents of Harbin, while threatening Russian water supplies down river.

"Recently, a series of serious environmental emergencies, most notably the Songhua river pollution incident, has resulted in great losses to public health, social stability, economic growth and even to our diplomatic efforts," Pan said.

Tuesday's statements came a day after SEPA pledged to establish a public disclosure system on environmental disasters after announcing that 45 pollution incidents, including six major disasters, had occurred in China since the Songhua river spill.

A combination of rapid economic development and continued population growth means China is putting unsustainable pressure on its water resources.

Previous government reports have said that more than 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted, while underground water in 90 percent of Chinese cities is polluted.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Global Initiative To Limit Chemical Hazards Agreed In Dubai
Dubai (AFP) Feb 07, 2006
Environment and health officials from more than 120 countries agreed in Dubai on Tuesday to an initiative to limit chemical hazards, the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) director announced.

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