Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 4 News List

China to put billions into 5-year river clean up campaign

AP , BEIJING

China will invest 26.6 billion yuan (US$3.28 billion) over the next five years to clean up the Songhua River, a key source of drinking water for tens of millions of people that was polluted in November by a toxic spill that reached into Russia, reports said yesterday.

The effort will cover the entire river valley in four provinces that are home to more than 62 million people, with drinking water sources in large and medium-sized cities given priority, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

By 2010, more than 90 percent of the people living in the four provinces should have access to clean drinking water, the paper quoted environmental officials meeting in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, as saying. The percentage of those with access to clean drinking water now wasn't given.

The plan comes weeks after an explosion at a chemical plant spewed benzene into the Songhua, polluting the river and disrupting running water to millions of people in both China and Russia, where the toxic slick arrived late last month.

It also comes as one central Chinese province lifted a pollution warning for its water supply and another reported that that cadmium, a potentially cancer-causing chemical, leaked into a tributary of the Yangtze River.

Under the clean up plan, new facilities will be constructed to remove 4 million tonnes of waste water from the river each day. Officials said about 1.29 billion tonnes of waste water must be removed from the Songhua every year to improve its quality.

Meanwhile, the local government in the central province of Henan lifted a pollution warning for a stretch of the Yellow River following a diesel oil leakage on Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

An oil pipe at a power plant in Gongyi City in Henan split due to freezing temperatures, spilling six tonnes of diesel into the Yiluo tributary, local officials said.

By Saturday night, the water quality in the tributary and the river's lower reaches was found to meet safety standards, Xinhua quoted the government as saying.

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