China vows to curb heavy metal pollution

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2011 9:03 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China promised Tuesday to contain heavy metal pollution but admitted it faces a challenge with inadequate environment protection resources in a rapidly growing economy.

China wants to cut its heavy metal pollution by 15 percent of 2007 levels by 2015, whilst keeping non-heavy metal pollution under 2007 levels, the country's cabinet said in a statement on the government's website. (www.gov.cn)

The targets are in line with goals outlined by Beijing earlier this year under a five-year economic blue-print.

Heavy metal pollution has been a flash point in China in the past after cases of mass poisoning, especially in children, roused widespread public anger.

"Laws for protecting the environment remains inadequate, investment insufficient, legal enforcement weak, and regulation abilities are lagging," the cabinet said in its statement.

To help China protect its environment, the Chinese Environment Minister signed deals with 31 provincial governments and eight state firms to cut emissions, state media Xinhua said.

Xinhua did not list the targets. But the cabinet's statement said China wants to cut its chemical oxygen demand emission by 8 percent of 2010 levels by 2015. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions are to fall 8 percent and 10 percent respectively.

China also aims to build at least 1,184 new sewage treatment plants that can treat 45.7 million tonnes of sewage each day, and furbish thermal power plants with a combined capacity of 400 million kilowatts with the capability to remove sulfur, Xinhua said.

Despite Beijing's frequent pledges to reduce pollution, its vows are usually scuppered by a paucity of resources and will as local officials often put economic growth, revenue and job creation ahead of environmental standards.

Exposure to lead and other heavy metals can damage nerves, reproductive systems and kidneys, among other health complications, especially among children.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing)