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China to Release New Water Pollution Action Plan


China will release its new Water Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan next month, Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining said this week.

The "Action Plan for Treating and Preventing Water Pollution," also known as the "ten-point water plan," was approved last year by the State Council. It aims to overhaul water resources management and improve monitoring of drinking water supplies in the country.

The plan includes a new monitoring system that will follow drinking water from source to household tap, in an attempt to alleviate public concerns about the safety and quality drinking water.

Chen said the plan would also strengthen current efforts to toughen supervision of and accountability in handling wastewater.

He announced the new plan and monitoring system this weekend to mark World Water Day on March 22nd.

Water pollution is a growing problem in China; 40 percent of the water in the nation’s seven major river systems, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, is so polluted it is unsafe to drink. And nearly 60 percent of the 4,778 stations that monitor groundwater showed severe pollution levels at the end of 2013.

Recognizing the growing threat to the country’s water supply, the Chinese government last year passed a new Environmental Protection Law, which went into effect on January 1st.

The amended law “sets environmental protection as the country’s basic policy,” rather than economic development at any cost.

It provides stiffer penalties for polluting businesses, including higher fines and up to 15 days in jail for company bosses who violate environment rules. Local officials can now be demoted or fired if they are found to be guilty of misconduct, including covering up environmental wrongdoing. In some cases, they could be charged with criminal offenses.

The new legal measures also promote studies on the impacts of environmental quality on public health and prevention of pollution-related diseases.

In another move to combat pollution, China’s Liaoning province recently installed video monitoring systems at 160 water treatment plants across 14 cities, to help local environmental authorities monitor water quality in real time, 24 hours a day.

It is the first system of its kind to be used in Mainland China.

"The form of the bubbles, the color of the water, and the density of the sludge help us make a preliminary assessment on whether or not the wastewater has been treated correctly," said Zhou Xin of the Liaoning Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau.

If a pollution incident occurs, authorities will receive immediate information on changes like pH value and total nitrogen, and will be able to make timely decisions to limit the damage.