The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has released a nationwide survey of major waterways and catchment basins in an effort to catalogue pollution control efforts. The report singled out nine cities and municipalities, including Kunming and the Dianchi Lake area, for failing to meet a series of governmental water quality benchmarks.
The study was commissioned in 2012 and follows conservation guidelines broadly laid out in the central government's Twelfth Five-Year Plan. Under those directives, 60 percent of the country's rivers and lakes must be sufficiently clean to be utilized as sources of drinking water by 2015.
The survey reports Dianchi Lake lags behind the other water bodies by significant margins despite years of cleanup efforts. In the category referred to by the MEP report as "water pollution control project completion rate", Yunnan's largest body of water was rated 6.9 percent rehabilitated — 16 percent lower than the group average.
In a discussion of the report, an unnamed spokesman for the MEP listed a litany of factors that caused the nine areas and regions to fall short of required standards. Of these reasons, the representative singled out rising rural groundwater pollution levels, substandard sewage treatment facilities, construction delays and poor project management as major contributing factors.
As a result of the study findings, each of the nine regions are required to suspend all new construction projects that have the capacity to generate "major water pollution discharges." Such ventures will only be allowed to restart following MEP-conducted environmental impact studies. Which projects fall under the jurisdiction of this new policy, or how they will be evaluated, has yet to be made clear.
Beijing has earmarked 500 billion yuan (US$82 billion) over the next two years to bring pollution levels under control in the nine regions listed by the MEP report. Besides Dianchi Lake, some of the more significant regions also slated for cleanup include the vast Three Gorges reservoir, the Yellow River basin in Henan and Chaohu Lake in Anhui.
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