Two thirds of Chinese cities' water, air polluted

BEIJING Mon Jun 11, 2007 10:01pm EDT

A view of the algae-filled Chaohu Lake in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui province, June 8, 2007. China has sacked or otherwise punished five officials for dereliction of duty after green algae covered Taihu Lake, prompting a drinking water crisis for millions, a newspaper said on Monday. REUTERS/Stringer

A view of the algae-filled Chaohu Lake in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui province, June 8, 2007. China has sacked or otherwise punished five officials for dereliction of duty after green algae covered Taihu Lake, prompting a drinking water crisis for millions, a newspaper said on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Nearly two-thirds of Chinese cities suffered from air pollution last year and had no centralized sewage treatment facilities, state media reported on Tuesday.

Only 37.6 percent of 585 cities surveyed had air quality "indicating a clean and healthy environment," down 7.3 percentage points from 2005, the China Daily said, citing a report by the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Thirty-nine cities, many scattered across the northern coal-rich province of Shanxi and China's northeastern rustbelt province of Liaoning, suffered "severe" air pollution, the paper said.

"The report also found that the ratio of quality water in the major urban areas, either for drinking or industrial use, had dropped by 7.24 percent," the paper said.

Two hundred cities had no "centralized sewage management system" and 187 had no garbage disposal plants, it said.

The government planned to have at least 70 percent of sewage and at least 60 percent of garbage treated effectively by 2010, but "the environment issue remains of serious concern and there is difficulty realizing the goal," the paper quoted the report as saying.

The report comes as the capital Beijing on Tuesday was shrouded in thick smog, which local media said was exacerbated by smoke blown into the city from crop burning in neighboring provinces.

On Monday night, an index measuring air pollution from Beijing's southern Daxing county read over 850 particles of "particulate matter" per square meter, which was eight times the norm, the Beijing News said.

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