July 4, 2007 / 7:01 AM / 12 years ago

China punishes cities for polluting rivers

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s top environmental watchdog has punished several cities and over 30 factories for chronic river pollution, accusing growth-obsessed local governments of worsening degradation to an “unbearable” extent.

Six cities, two counties and five industrial parks were named and shamed by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) this week for their role in polluting four major rivers, including China’s longest two, the Yangtze and the Yellow River.

SEPA would not approve any projects proposed by the accused polluters for three months other than treatment plants and “recycling” facilities, the agency said in a statement on its Web site (www.sepa.gov.cn).

The ban will not be lifted until the sources of untreated waste water are shut down, treatment facilities are installed and regulations that protect violators are overturned, it said.

The 38 blacklisted factories were ordered to either close or halt production, the statement said.

China has been struggling to change its priorities from growth at all costs to more sustainable development as environmental degradation fuels increasing public discontent and threatens to compromise its economic rise.

But central government efforts have been stymied by a culture of breakneck growth and by local officials who stand to gain from investments in their regions.

The cities named also include those along the Hai River in the north and the Huai River in central China, where recent SEPA tests found water pollution at the highest level, the SEPA statement said.

“The Hai River’s main tributary Ziya has seen no improvement in the past decade in its dark green and stinking water where aquatic lives are extinct,” it quoted vice SEPA head Pan Yue as saying.

“This fully demonstrates that the traditional industrial growth mode has strained China’s resources and environment to an unbearable extreme,” Pan said.

He said an algae outbreak last month in the Taihu Lake which cut off tap water in the eastern Wuxi city for days marked the start of an “intensive occurrence period” for water pollution incidents.

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