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China vows to curb heavy metal pollution

22nd February 2011

China's environmental agency has said it will intervene to stop heavy metal pollution, earmarking 75 billion yuan (£7 billion) to tackle the problem over the next five years.


China sees frequent protests over the many children who either die or become very ill from heavy metals such as lead.

While the country boasts an impressive array of environmental protection legislation, its laws are rarely enforced, as cash-strapped local governments seek to boost local industrial development at all costs.

Recently, a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University said that 10% of China's rice, and 60% of rice grown in some southern provinces, may contain high levels of cadmium.

Cadmium is toxic to living tissues such as the lungs, heart, and liver.

Zhou Shengxian, China's environmental protection minister, said that preventing heavy metal pollution was one of the people's major concerns.

He said that children's health and social harmony and stability were both at stake, a veiled references to recent protests by angry parents across China.

Officials in Beijing say they plan to curb the amount of pollution that usually comes from certain regions around the city.

A lot of the heavy metal pollution in Beijing comes from plants that manufacture lead-acid batteries, as well as lead-smelting operations.

China also plans to hold officials accountable for not living up to their promises by monitoring the progress of all the affected regions.

China has often promised to clean up its environment.

However, the way resources are used in China is deeply linked to the workings of regional politics.

Experts say that the urge to succeed economically has also hindered China's ability to curb its environmental pollution.

Earlier this year in eastern China, hundreds of children who lived near battery factories demonstrated symptoms of lead poisoning.

The government has ordered Zijin Mining, a Chinese gold mining company, to pay hefty fines for leaking toxic waste into local rivers.

Yang Ailun, Greenpeace China's campaign manager, said that pollution accidents in China would probably get worse in the near future rather than improving, since old facilities were beginning to break down.

He said that the Chinese government would need to work hard over the next five years, if it wanted to cut down on pollution.

Altogether, nearly 4,500 enterprises, which also include leather producers, the chemical industry, and mines, have been identified as key government targets for regulation.

Nearly 4,500 enterprises, including mines, battery manufacturers, leather producers and the chemical industry, have been identified as key monitoring targets.

Zhou said that more than 30 major heavy-metal poisoning incidents had occurred since 2009.


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Article Information

Title: China vows to curb heavy metal pollution
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 17656
Date Added: 22nd Feb 2011


The Independent

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