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Minister Zhou Requested to Guide Environmental Protection Work with Scientific Outlook on Development and Make All out Efforts to Promote Historical Transformation for Environmental Protection

On January 22, the 2008 National Conference of Heads of Provincial-level Environmental Protection Bureaus was held in Beijing. SEPA Minister Zhou Shengxian presented at the meeting and delivered important remarks. Minister Zhou analyzed the current situation of environmental protection work in an all-round way, proposed the guidelines and general requirements of the environmental protection work, and made overall arrangements for major goals and tasks in this field for the next three years especially this year. He pointed out that in the new year, the environmental system should thoroughly carry out the guidelines of the 17th National Congress of CCCPC and the Central Economic Working Conference, guide the environmental protection work with the scientific outlook on development, do down-to-earth work, pursue the substantial results, and try to achieve the environmental goals set in the 11th Five-Year Plan, in order to contribute more to promoting the sound and fast development of the economy and society and to achieving a complete success of building a Xiaokang Society in an all-round way.

Mr. Zhou reviewed the achievements of environmental protection work at the 11th Five-Year Plan period. He pointed out that the two years (2006 and 2007) are very crucial for the development of the Party and the State. The two years also witnessed the rapid development of the environmental cause. In this period, under the leadership of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, all departments and local areas had, according to the overall arrangements of the Party Central Committee for environmental work, thoroughly carried out the scientific outlook on development, made all-out efforts to intensify the reduction of pollutants, changed the passive position in pollution control to the active control, so that the historical transformations had a solid step further and the relation between the environment and the economy had seen encouraging changes as follows.

First, there was a favorite turn for pollution reduction. The total amount of the two major pollutants had slowed down in growth. Over the past two years, up to 45% of the coal-fired thermal power units were installed with desulfurization facilities, and 60% of the sewage water in the urban areas was treated. The total amounts of the two major pollutants began to decrease in 2007, which was unprecedented.

Second, we pressed ahead with the treatment of regional environment in key watersheds. We organized a special survey on the protected areas for centralized drinking water sources, mobilized all the resources to inspect the law enforcement, closed down and banned the sewage outlets in the Grade I protected areas for drinking water sources, and severely cracked down on the illicit pollutant discharge behaviors in Grade II protected areas. Consequently, 70% of the protected areas for drinking water sources had met with the standards. We held a series of meetings like the meeting for water pollution control in Songhua River watershed, the national conference on pollution control of lakes and the meeting of pollution control of rivers, proposed to rehabilitate the heavy-loaded rivers, lakes and seas, and clarified the new thoughts and policies for treatment of water environment. The green measures for Beijing had been effective and the ambient air quality was improved obviously, which had been highly commented by the United Nations.

Third, we had effectively contained the trend of overheated growth of the resources-intensive industries with high energy consumption and high pollution. We had elevated the environmental access conditions for construction projects in 13 high energy consuming and heavy polluting industries like power supply, steelmaking and petrochemical sectors, and rejected or delayed the approval of 377 projects with a total investment of 1.5 trillion yuan. Special environmental inspection had been conducted on 9,000-odd newly started projects, 1,194 of which were ordered to stop, delay construction or adopt complementary measures. We tightened the environmental assessment of enterprises about to be listed in the market. In 2007, SEPA rejected or delayed the application of ten enterprises (worth 8.4 billion yuan) for listing, and suspended the approval of EIA statements of ten cities, two counties, five development areas and four power groups, which had awed the environmental violations. We actively carried out the EIA of plans and designated 100-odd sites for pilot projects on environmental impact assessment of typical administrative regions, major industries and special plans. We issued the Provisional Measures on the Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment and Measures for the Disclosure of Environmental Information (on Trial), which provided a new platform for safeguarding the rights of access to environmental information, right of participation and right of supervision of the public.

Fourth, we had tried hard to solve the prominent problems concerning the people's livelihood. We treated the environmental violations in protection areas for drinking water sources, industrial parks, lead-related sectors and paper-making mills. Over the past two years, 3.95 million person*times of law enforcers were called out, inspecting enterprises for 1.72 million times, dealing with 45,000 environmental violations cases, supervising 11,000 cases of violations, and prosecuting 786 persons liable for the violations, thus safeguarding the environmental rights and interests of the public. We conducted special inspections on six river basins including Songhua River, Huaihe River, Haihe River, Yellow River, Changjiang River, and Taihu Lake, supervised enterprises badly violating the environmental laws and ordered them to rectify within a limited period. We issued the National Action Plan on Environment and Health together with 18 departments including the public health sector, formulated six standards for identifying the harms of environmental pollutants on health, and initiated the project on integrated control of cancers in Huaihe River basins. Confronted with the high frequency of environmental emergencies at 1case/2days on average, we responded composedly and fought actively against the accidents, so as to properly handle the environmental emergencies arousing the close attention of the society, like the pollution accidents of Manghu River and the Blue Algae Crisis of Taihu Lake. Environmental laws, regulations and standards were more improved, and the nuclear and radioactive safety regulation was enhanced.

Fifth, we had made progress in the ecological protection work. The Administrative Office of the State Council forwarded the Opinions on Enhancing the Environmental Protection in Rural Areas, and SEPA issued the Outline of the National Plan on Control of Environmental Pollution in Rural Areas, which identified the major goals and tasks for pollution control in rural areas. We initiated the nationwide survey on the pollution of soils, and released Outline of National Plan on Major Eco-function Protection Areas and Outline of National Plan on the Protection and Use of Biological Species Resources.

Sixth, we had conducted vivid and dynamic activities for the "Year of Environmental Protection" in local areas. Over the past two years, we had invested 556 billion yuan in environmental protection, about 1.24% of the GDP in the same period. The central financial departments set up a special fund for pollution reduction, urgently started four projects for the capacity building of pollution reduction, and invest 3.2 billion yuan in establishing three systems, namely, the pollution reduction indicator, monitoring and assessment systems. We had done more to select and promote cadres at division-level and director general-level, so that a group of energetic, moral, and talented young cadres were promoted as leaders. We thoroughly neatened the thoughts and work styles, so that the work styles in the organs were obviously improved and the appetency and cohesion of the ranks of environmental cadres were enhanced.

Seventh, we had launched the three major environmental projects in an all-round way. We made steady progress in the three fundamental and strategic projects, that is, the survey on pollution sources, the study on macro strategies, and the Water Pollution Control and Treatment Programme. The State Council issued Regulations on Survey of Nationwide Pollution Sources. SEPA organized the formulation of the survey schemes, conducted on-site monitoring of nearly 30,000 major industrial pollutant sources and centralized pollution treatment facilities, and tested and calculated the effluent coefficient in a large scale. It was estimated to produce nearly 30,000 such coefficients. According to the policy of "summarizing the past, instructing the present and planning the future", we had unfolded the studies on the 29 topics under the four subjects of China Environmental Macro Strategy Study, and some of the topics had made substantive progress. The Implementation Plan of the Water Pollution Control and Treatment Programme had been formulated.

Eighth, we had witnessed a breakthrough in international environmental cooperation. Multilateral and bilateral cooperation in environment field had been enhanced. Chinese Government in the new era had strengthened its resolve to protect the environment and further erected the image of a responsible country, which won the good comments from the international community.

Minister Zhou pointed out that over the past two years, closely around the major task of speeding up the historical transformations, we had made adventurous innovations and carved out with an enterprising spirits in the environmental work, actively explored the way to do a good job in environmental protection in the new century, new phase and new situation, and learned new experience as follows in how to promote the historical transformations. We should persist in thinking about the environmental protection in the context of the overall economic and social development and trying hard to explore the way for harmonious development of the ecological civilization; we should persist in solving environmental issues at the macro and strategic level and trying hard to promote the closely cohesion of environmental protection and economic development; we should persist in extending the environmental protection to the whole process of reproduction and trying hard to establish an all-dimensional system for pollution control; we should persist in introducing the strictest green measures and rehabilitating the heavy-loaded rivers, lakes, and seas; we should persist in integrating the environmental protection with the improvement of livelihood and identifying the general thoughts to make progress in all aspects and achieve breakthroughs in key areas; and we should persist in conducting the "five constructions" and upgrading the capacity in all aspects.

Mr. Zhou said the next three years is the crucial period for implementing the 11th Five-Year Plan for environmental protection. We should pay close attention to pollution reduction, water pollution control, environmental access, key sectors, key projects and rural environmental protection, control the emissions of SO2 and COD, improve the environmental quality of major areas and cities, and basically contain the trends of ecological degradation.

Mr. Zhou stressed that 2008 is the year for us to make breakthroughs in achieving the tasks under the 11th Five-Year Plan; it is also a connecting link between the preceding and the following years during the 11th Five-Year Plan period. We must fully realize the strategic and realistic significance of speeding up the shift of economic growth pattern and building a resource-saving and environment-friendly society to new success in building a Xiaokang Society in an all-round way. We must be down-to-earth to implement the various tasks of environmental protection proposed by the 17th CPC National Congress and the Central Economic Working Conference. In our work, we should carry out the guidelines of the 17th CPC National Congress in an all-round way, thoroughly implement the scientific outlook on development, and by standing on the grand stage, grasping the main thoughts and going to the main battlefield, do more to trim the pollutants, rehabilitate the rivers, lakes and seas, and safeguard the safety of drinking water for the public. We should fully carry out the three fundamental and strategic projects and take the initiative to make plans for the environmental protection work under the 12th Five-Year Plan. We should continue with the "five constructions" in organs at all levels, build a rank of environmental cadres with good political quality, top professional backgrounds and spirits of dedication, make all-out efforts to promote the historical transformations, and constantly create the new phase of sound and fast development of environmental work. To be specific, we should pay close attention to the following eight aspects.

First of all, we should work harder to make breakthroughs and ensure the leap-forward progress in pollution reduction. We should earnestly implement the whole package of work plans on energy saving and emissions reduction, adopt more forceful measures, fight to trim the emissions, and ensure that the emissions of SO2 and COD drop in 2008 by 6% and 5% respectively compared with 2005. We should try hard to reduce the emissions by restructuring, project control and management. This year will witness an increase of 12 million tons of urban sewage treatment capacity, and within two years 36 big and medium-sized cities will have been able to collect and treat all of the sewage water. The current coal-fired power plants will have installed desulphurization facilities for units with the capacity of over 30 million kw. Ten sintering machines for steels (1,000 m2) will be equipped with flue gas desulfurization facilities. We will speed up to connect the on-line monitoring systems for desulfurization facilities in coal-fired power plants, urban sewage treatment plants and other major state-owned polluters. We will intensify the environmental regulation, limit the production or emissions of enterprises not in compliance with the environmental requirements, suspend their production for treatment or even close them down. For heavy polluting sectors like chemical and paper-making industries and other enterprises that discharge pollutants against the standards, discharge more than the indicators of total amount control, or produce or use toxic and hazardous substances, we will exercise mandatory assessment for cleaner production. We will actively transform the industrial parks and industry musters to make them more ecological, continue with the pricing reform of products used as resources and the environmental charging reforms, and together with relevant departments, raise the fees for emissions and for sewage and garbage treatment, work on levying environmental tax, and constantly improve the environmental economic policies. We will continue to do well in establishing the three systems, and try to form a framework for pollution reduction, which is guided by the government, mainstreamed by the enterprises and promoted by the whole society.

Second, we should rehabilitate the heavy-loaded rivers, lakes, and seas and earnestly safeguard the safety of drinking water for the public. We should intensify the environmental management of drinking water sources, and try to enable all the indicators for centralized surface drinking water sources in the 113 environmental major cities to meet the standards, and banned the effluent outlets in the protected areas of drinking water sources. We should enhance the pollution control in key watersheds, lakes and seas, implement the target-hitting system for the quality of cross-border waters, and check out the effects of pollution reduction efforts by water quality conditions. We should conduct ecological safety evaluations in nine key lake and reservoir areas including Taihu Lake, Chaohu Lake and Dianchi Lake. For lakes suffering from serous eutrophication, we should stop approving industrial construction projects that will add up the total amount of nitrogen and phosphorous emissions across the whole lake basins. We should strictly control the land-source pollution and protect the marine environment well.

Third, we should deepen the urban environmental protection and try to improve the regional environmental quality. We should further treat the environment of big cities and the pollution caused by air, sewage and domestic garbage in city proper and suburbs. We should continue to foster the model cities for environmental protection, make overall plans for rural, urban and regional environmental protection, and enable the model cities to become the example to lead the national energy saving and emissions reduction campaign. We should actively promote the cooperation on air pollution control in city agglomerates of Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta. Taking the opportunity of Beijing Olympic Games, we should improve the joint prevention mechanism for regional areas, intensify urban air pollution control and try to achieve the goal of green Olympics.

Fourth, we should intensify the supervision on law enforcement and safeguard people's environmental rights and interests. We should continue to conduct special green actions, lay the focus on supervising the urban sewage and garbage treatment facilities as well as chemical, papermaking, power supply and steel industries, severely crack down on environmental violations that endanger the people's drinking water safety, and rigorously keep away from pollution caused by heavy metals. For enterprises that are supervised by the environmental authorities, regional areas restricted for approval of construction projects, especially the areas with major environmental cases and badly violations of environmental laws, we should have follow-up supervision, actively explore an effective mechanism in a long run, and make it legal to conduct follow-up supervisions. We should do well in handing the complaints by letters and the administrative review and earnestly respond to the environmental complaints and appeals that arouse strong public reactions. We should have strict environmental controls for enterprises about to be listed and refinanced, and reject at one swoop those not in compliance with environmental requirements. We should instruct the listed companies to do well in environmental performance assessment and disclose of environmental information, making them to subject to the social supervision.

Fifth, we should raise the threshold for environmental access and vigorously promote the shift of economic growth patterns. We should give full play to the important role of environmental impact assessment in the national macro control, speed up formulating and implementing environmental access standards on promoting pollution reduction, strictly contain the overheated growth of resource-intensive industries with high energy consumption and high pollution, and stop approving the construction projects that discharge heavy metals and POPs into rivers. We should restrict the approval of construction projects in areas that fail to phase out the outdated production capacity, violate the environmental laws badly, exceed the total amount control indicator, and lag behind in terms of constructing key pollutant treatment projects. According to the different policies on four types of function areas, namely areas for development in the first concern, areas crucial for development, areas restricted for development and areas forbidden to be developed, we should work out supporting policies on environmental access, and promote the environmental management towards giving classified guidance and making progress in different areas. We should accelerate the pilot projects on environmental impact assessment of plans and start the strategic environmental impact assessment.

Sixth, we should intensify the rural environmental protection and further enhance the ecological protection. We should fully carry out the opinions on enhancing rural environmental protection and try hard to change it from being lagged behind. We should intensify the control of industrial pollution in rural areas and strictly control the transfer of heavy polluting enterprises and outdated production capacity to rural and disadvantaged areas; complete the collection, analysis and testing of soil samples and finish the survey on soil pollution; strictly contain the irrational activities to tap resources, give full play to the restoration function of the nature and ecology and try hard to curb the degrading trend of the ecological functions. We should further improve the annual assessment of ecological environmental quality, vigorously promote the construction of the ecological function protection areas, strengthen the ecological supervision, enhance the biodiversity protection and bio-safety management, and prevent the loss of species and invasion of alien species.

Seventh, we should cooperate with resources from all aspects and try to make breakthroughs in the three fundamental and strategic projects. We should emphasize on the survey on pollutant sources in this phase and fully master the various pollutant sources in the country, pay close attention to the study on China's environmental macro strategies from beginning to end, conduct full investigations, actively explore the way to build ecological civilization, and propose the environmental protection strategies with Chinese characteristics in order to guide the environmental protection work under the 12th Five-Year Plan. We should launch the special S&T projects on treatment and control of water pollution, actively coordinate all departments involved, and around the control and treatment of the eutrophication of lakes, control of water pollution in rivers, urban water pollution control and integrated treatment of water environment, guarantee of drinking water safety, monitoring and pre-warning of water environment in watersheds, and water environmental management and policies, make all-out efforts to make breakthroughs in science and technology, in order to provide a forceful S&T supports for the control and treatment of water pollution.

Eighth, we should continue with the ideological, organizational, work style, professional and institutional constructions that aim to enhance our capacity to facilitate historical transformations. We should keep on learning and constantly upgrade the ideological, policy and professional levels needed to adapt to the environmental protection in the new era; conduct thorough investigations, take the initiative and master the basic approaches to make overall plans and implement the scientific outlook on development; pay close attention to implementation, and constantly achieve good results, so as to take a leap-forward step for implementing the scientific outlook on development and promoting the historical transformations, and contribute more to promoting scientific development, building ecological civilization and facilitating the building of an environment-friendly society.

Mr. Zhou stressed that nuclear and radioactive safety is an integral part of the State security, so we must continue to strengthen the supervision on various nuclear facilities, regulate by law the management, supervision and inspection on qualification certificates of nuclear safety equipment, and further intensify the supervision and management of radioactive sources, in order to ensure that the construction of nuclear facilities is qualified and the operation is safe.

At last, Mr. Zhou said, to do well in the environmental protection work of 2008 is crucial for maintaining the healthy situation of rapid development of environmental cause. We should base ourselves on the current situation, have a long-term insight, explore with an enterprising spirit, and work down-to-earth, in order to contribute more to achieving the environmental goals set out in the 11th Five-Year Plan and speeding up the building of a resource-saving and environment-friendly society.

The conference is chaired by Vice Minister of SEPA Zhang Lijun, and Vice Ministers Wu Xiaoqing, Zhou Jian and Li Ganjie, Chief of the Discipline Inspection Group Fu Wenjuan, member with the Party Committee of SEPA Zhu Guangyao, and former leaders of SEPA Zeng Xiaodong and Wang Xinfang also presented at the conference.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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