China to continue dealing with Songhua River pollution: official

BEIJING, Feb 2, 2006 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --The Chinese government will continue to deal with the water pollution of Songhua River in northeast China in three strategic phases, Zhou Shengxian, minister in charge of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), has said.

This is the latest official comment from China's environmental watchdog regarding last year's severe water pollution that caused a drinking water cutoff for several days in Harbin, the capital city of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province with a population of more than 3 million.

In the future, the government will continue monitoring the water quality of the Songhua River and the Heilong River on the Sino- Russian border. Sixteen monitoring points will be operational along the rivers, said Zhou.

Chinese scientists will conduct an environmental assessment on last year's pollution incident, caused by an explosion of a chemical factory in Jilin City, Jilin Province, on the upper reaches of the Songhua River.

A five-year environmental protection plan will also be mapped out for promoting the harmony between social, economic development and the local environment in the Songhua River Valley. The focus will be placed on ensuring drinking water safety for big cities in the region, said Zhou.

Efforts will also be made to prevent any new incident of water pollution. Special attention will be paid to the monitoring of the quality of aquatic products from the river, he added.

Moreover, a long-term mechanism of environmental protection will be set up by forming special government taskforces, rescue teams, platforms of laws and information, as well as headquarters in charge of handling emergencies and accidents. Special equipment and technology will also be developed for the purpose, Zhou noted.