China’s premier promised on Wednesday to reduce emissions, conserve energy and shut down outmoded and inefficient factories in heavily polluting industries such as electricity, coal and steel.
“We must increase our sense of urgency and intensify efforts to make greater progress,” Premier Wen Jiabao said in his annual policy speech at the opening of the National People’s Congress.
“First, we will implement the plan to close down backward production facilities in the electricity, steel, cement, coal and papermaking industries,” Wen said. “We will also put in place a mechanism for closing down these facilities and improve and implement support policies and measures for shutting down enterprises.”
China has been battling major environmental problems as its double-digit economic growth boosts manufacturing and energy industries that emit vast amounts of carbon and soot into the air. The country has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.
Wen was speaking at the annual session of the congress, a legislature that adopts decisions made earlier by the Chinese leadership. The annual session gives local politicians and senior leaders chances to air grievances and quietly lobby for pet policies.
Wen also promised a renewed push to rein in an investment boom in industries seen as the worst environmental offenders.
“Haphazard investment and unneeded development projects in energy-intensive and highly polluting industries and industries with excess production capacity will be resolutely stopped,” he said.
To discourage expansion in those sectors, market access will be tightened and capital requirements will be increased, he said.
China’s communist leadership – long indifferent to the environmental cost of the country’s economic boom – has become more sensitive to pollution complaints after being stung by a series of high-profile accidents that polluted rivers, disrupting water supplies to major cities.
Farmers throughout the country have protested over pollution that has tainted water supplies and ruined farmland.
Fighting pollution was also a goal of some of the nearly 3,000 delegates on hand for Wen’s speech.
“The environmental problem is also a problem that all countries face. Our central committee and state council, under the guidance of scientific development, have the full ability to solve those problems,” said Lin Jinlong, a city mayor from prosperous Jiangsu province in eastern China.
Wen said China will also work to make major breakthroughs in key technologies for producing vehicles powered by new energy sources and to develop high-speed rail transport.
The country’s growing appetite for cars, particularly in its urban areas, is adding to the industrial smog that blankets many of its larger cities. In Beijing, the site of this summer’s Olympics, organisers have been debating strategies to take half of the capital’s 3 million-plus vehicles off the road during the Games to combat the gray haze.
China will also step up protection of rural drinking water sources and work to provide safe drinking water for another 32 million rural residents this year, Wen said. A World Bank report said last year that three-quarters of the country’s low-income households with young children had no access to piped water.
Wen said China also set a two-year goal to collect and treat 100 per cent of urban sewage in 36 large cities while improving sewage treatment elsewhere.
The premier said Beijing also wants to strengthen efforts to protect and conserve its natural resources including land, water, grasslands, and minerals. (AP)
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