China cuts key water, air pollutants in early 2008

BEIJING Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:32am EST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China cut its emissions of water pollution and acid rain-causing sulphur dioxide in the first half of this year, as Beijing closed dirty power plants and the global economic crisis hit heavy industry, state media said on Tuesday.

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, dropped by 2.5 percent from the same period last year as new sewage plants came online, while sulphur dioxide emissions were down 4.0 percent, the official Xinhua agency said.

"The dual reduction was achieved through continued pollution control measures, as well as the closure of some outdated plants that consumed too much energy," Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian was quoted saying.

The government shuttered small, dirty power plants with over 8 gigawatts of capacity, the report said.

Desulphurisation equipment was also added at plants with 40.6 GW of installed capacity, although that increase still represents well under 10 percent of the country's power plant capacity.

China has promised to cut the two key pollution measures by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010. Last year marked the first swing downwards for both of them.

But the two targets reached are primitive indicators of overall environmental health which do not reflect the many other chemicals that have turned its pollution problems into a domestic headache and an international embarrassment.

And emissions of greenhouse gases are set to soar as the government seeks greater prosperity for its people.

The majority of the much-publicized factory closures and traffic controls around Beijing for the Olympic Games in August only began in July so would not show up in figures for the first half of the year.

China is also large enough that even the massive shut down around Beijing for the Games is unlikely to make much of a dent on national pollution levels.

The report did not say if China had met its energy intensity target of cutting the amount of energy used to generate each dollar of national income, but the impact of the world financial crisis on the country's economy may help.

Energy guzzling industries like steel, aluminum and cement have been badly hit by the global slowdown and weakening domestic growth, particularly in the construction sector.

However Beijing has lived up to promises of tighter controls despite the gloom, rejecting or postponing projects involving 315 billion yuan ($46.14 billion) of investment in the first eight months of the year over environmental concerns, the report said.

($1=6.826 Yuan)

(Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Paul Tait)

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