07/07/2007, 00.00
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Polluters to forfeit bank loans

Chinese banks will use this criterion to decide who to give loans to, or even to ask for them back, in collaboration with the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa).The Sepa vice-director says the current model of industrial development is threatening people’s lives.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Firms not in line with anti-pollution norms will not receive bank loans and will have to give back those they have already received. This was announced yesterday by Pan Yue, vice-director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa), in agreement with the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The People's Bank of China has also urged banks to promote the financing of non-polluting industries.

Xia Guang, director of Sepa, said the policy was aimed at encouraging enterprises, through economic incentives, to “improve their conduct”. The bank system will have access to data of Sepa, which published a blacklist this year of more than 6,000 industrial polluters, including some big state-owned enterprises such as China National Offshore Oil Corp and Beijing Shougang.

So far, although they have been determined, the steps taken by Sepa have not obtained widespread results because local officials often do not apply the policy laid down by Beijing against polluting enterprises. The situation has reached such an extent that Zhou Shengxian, Sepa director, admitted at an official meeting that water pollution worsened in 2007 and heavily polluting industries were increasing, with 65 pollution disasters like algal-bloom outbreaks in Tai, Chao and Dian lakes that deprived millions of people of drinking water.

On the Sepa website, Pan warned that industrial growth “has pushed China's resources and environment close to breaking point, and the daily lives of the people are seriously threatened. Traditional administration methods cannot resolve the accumulated environmental problems.” He also said that “enterprises are still discharging large amounts of pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which has increased risks of algal outbreaks.”

The impact of Sepa interventions is often neutralised before long by local authorities. Meanwhile, on 3 July, Sepa denounced 38 industries for not respecting the norms regulating industrial waste in water flows. Some, like China Mangniu Dairy (the country’s largest milk factory), have been accused of working for years without ever having carried out verifications on environmental consequences or adopted anti-pollution measures. But many counter allegations by saying such problems are “being researched” and that they are working “in collaboration” with competent public officials.

Anhui Conch Cement, the country’s largest cement producer, was told to stop some works in Wuhu (Anhui), which did not have the prescribed environmental approval. Zhang Mingjing, company manager, responded by saying this was merely an irregularity and that production would be resumed within a few days after another inspection.

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