China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Friday, December 02, 2005

Jilin authorities slammed for 'poor work'

People`s Daily: The environmental authorities of Jilin Province were criticized Thursday for "poor work" after 100 tons of dangerous chemicals leaked into a river last month.

The spill was caused by a chemical plant blast on November 13 in Jilin city of the Northeast China province.

But from November 14 to 17, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) did not receive any account of the accident from Jilin, "losing the best opportunity" to control the pollution caused by benzene and its derivatives, said Wang Yuqing, vice-minister of the administration.

He criticized Jilin's "poor performance" in collecting and relaying information to the SEPA.

A reckless pursuit of economic growth and lack of emergency response mechanisms have seen China experiencing a high rate of environmental disasters, he said.

"A series of grave environmental accidents have occurred since the beginning of this year," he told a national teleconference.

By the end of November, 36 major pollution accidents were reported, said Wang.

"But they do not include those that have not been reported to the SEPA," he said, adding that "China has entered an era of high incidence of environmental pollution."

Wang said there are many hazards around the country as some plants are built on river banks and in residential areas. Accidents in those places might cause ecological disasters, he warned.

Some regional governments have given tacit consent to the discharge of pollutants into rivers in the pursuit of economic growth, he said, adding that some regions have also approved polluting businesses that are banned by the central government.

He asked local authorities to learn from the Songhua River pollution accident and immediately check for hidden environmental hazards in their areas.

He urged the regions to make emergency response plans, establish command and control systems to handle emergencies and publicize methods of preventing such accidents.

According to the SEPA, only 14 provinces in China have emergency plans in the event of environmental accidents.

"After the Songhua River pollution, the SEPA activated its preparedness plan for the first time. The plan proved useful in dispelling panic and controlling the pollution," said Wang.

He stated that:

Checks on all kinds of pollution sources will start soon.

Supervision of units using dangerous chemicals or radioactive materials will be strengthened.

Enterprises which are located in communities, along rivers or at water sources will be the main targets of the checks.

The SEPA also urged local governments and enterprises to aim for production safety and cut down environmental pollution.

"Local governments should work out plans to deal with emergencies," Wang said.

"And local environmental protection bureaus need to increase their ability and improve their equipment to supervise and handle pollution."

Xinhua contributed to the story

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