China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pollution threatens China's oldest hydropower station

KUNMING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Water pollution is
threatening China's oldest hydropower station -- built nearly a century ago --
and has forced it to halt operation several times.

    The Shilongba Power Plant, located in the western
suburbs of Kunming, in southwest China's Yunnan Province, was built in 1908
using German technology and equipment, said deputy director Tian Jinghua.

    It draws freshwater from Dianchi Lake to generate
power, Tian said.

    But it has had to suspend operation several times in
recent years because of water pollution, he said. Chemical plants on the upper
reaches of the Tanglangchuan River have been discharging acidic effluents into
the lake.

    In November 2003, acidic water "attacked" the power
plant, triggering direct economic losses of up to 19 million yuan (2.4 million
U.S. dollars), he said.

    The latest incident occurred on Oct. 15 and 16 this
year. Highly acidic water forced the plant to stop generating power for 15
hours, he said.

    A probe by local environment authorities found that
two of the three chemical plants on the upper reaches of the Tanglangchuan River
were covertly discharging highly toxic waste water.

    Two guilty plants were ordered to suspend operations
and improve their production processes and were fined 50,000 and 60,000 yuan,
said Li Li, director of the Pollution Control Department of the Kunming
Environmental Bureau.

    The three polluters each agreed to pay 20,000 yuan to
the power plant to partially compensate its economic losses.

    "But imposing paltry fines is not likely to deter
chemical plants," said Li Li.

    She pointed out that a Kunming chemical plant would
have to spend 760,000 yuan over a six-month period to dispose of waste water
correctly but can only be fined 100,000 yuan if it violates waste water
discharge regulations.

    Environmentalists have called for tougher penalties
for polluters and for actions to raise awareness of environmental protection
among the public.

    Water pollution is a very serious problem in China.
Nearly 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted to various degrees,
government statistics show.

    China discharged 52.4 billion tons of waste water in
2005, up 26 percent on 2000. Only 52 percent of the waste water was treated
before being discharged.

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