09/18/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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War on pollution: Beijing fines two multinationals

Surprise spot checks uncover how two multinationals discharged polluting substances. Beijing imposes fines and cuts their production, pledging ‘zero tolerance’ for polluters. For the first time rate of air and water pollution shows a slight drop.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China will impose stiff fines on domestic and foreign companies that pollute. Surprise spot checks by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) found that multinational Unilever China and Hitachi Construction Machinery Company discharged waste containing banned chemical substances.

“We were surprised to find both companies had environmental pollution problems since they were the only two foreign companies selected at random for the inspection,” said Ren Longjiang, an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Unilever ‘s plan in Hefei (Anhui), which manufactures well-known household brands such as Dove, Lux, Kellogg's and Lipton, was fined 150,000 yuan and ordered to remedy the situation.

The pipe suspected of carrying the substandard water was disabled, a chemical oxygen demand (COD) monitor was installed and water treatment facilities have been upgraded.

Hitachi Construction Machinery (China) in Hefei was penalised for the same offence.

The mainland’s rapid industrialisation has been pressing on at a huge environmental cost, with up to 70 per cent of its waterways polluted and air quality in its biggest cities among the world’s worst.

Now Beijing is scrambling to find solutions. All projects that lead to the discharge of heavy metals or organic pollutants into rivers and lakes being rehabilitated will be turned out in the next 10 years, SEPA director Zhou Shengxian said.

Sulphur dioxide emissions fell by just 0.88 per cent in the first six months of this year, whilst chemical oxygen demand increased by 0.24 per cent (indicating a lower concentration of polluting substances).

These results won’t improve the situation by much given decades of unrestrained pollution but at least they are a first sign that things are turning around.

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