A Chinese environment official last week sounded the alarm about pollution in China's rivers, lakes and seas, saying the problem in the near-shore waters of major coastal economic zones is particularly serious.
Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing told a press conference that the quality of the water near the shore of northern China's Bohai Sea and the East China Sea, as well as water in five of the nine bays along China's coast was "extremely poor."
The five bays include Bohai Bay, the Yangtze estuary, Hangzhou Bay in Zhejiang Province, the Minjiang estuary in Fujian Province and the Pearl River estuary in the southern province of Guangdong, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Wu said that testing at 469 water quality monitoring stations along 10 major river basins, including the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Pearl River, showed that 61 percent of rivers had water quality that ranked somewhere between grades one and three last year, which means they could be used as a source for drinking water.
But 25.3 percent of rivers were so polluted that they were classified as fourth or fifth grade, meaning that the water could not be directly used by humans.
Water quality of 13.7 percent of the rivers was even lower than grade five, and could only be used for agricultural purposes.
Officials are taking steps to address the river pollution issues in Hechi city, in South China's Guangxi region.
Guangxi authorities announced last week they would close more than 100 heavy-metal processing plants in the region, which encompasses the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Hubei, all of which are endowed with non-ferrous metal resources.
Early this year, major contamination was detected in the Longjiang River there.
After inspecting the pollution control works of 154 heavy-metal processing plants following the incident in January, 123 of the plants were ordered to close, Liang Bin, Guangxi's top environmental official, told reporters.
The other 31 plants were ordered to take corrective measures before resuming production.
Liang said controlling heavy-metal pollution is a challenge for Guangxi, because of its limited budget and lagging production technologies.
However it has earmarked $3.93 million USD this year for improvements in pollution control, and has applied to the central government for another $708 million USD in assistance.
“We'll further tighten supervision of the industry, upgrade requirements for new companies involved in heavy metal, and take steps to phase out backward productions,” he said.
Large numbers of fish were killed in the Longjiang pollution incident, sparking outrage in Liuzhou city when its water supply was threatened.
Two chemical companies were later found to have illegally discharged carcinogenic cadmium into the river, and 10 company managers were arrested.
In terms of protecting the country’s seas and near-shore waters, China's Ministry of Finance announced in late May that starting in July, the country will start amassing a compensation fund to be used in cases of marine oil pollution.