China failed to meet government targets for improving energy use and cutting pollution last year as the nation's environmental woes worsened said Pan Yue, a vice minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration.
"The year 2006 was the most serious year for China's environmental situation," he said Jan. 10 in a statement on the watchdog's website. "Environmental problems have already become the major bottleneck constraining China's economic and social development."
Pan said China suffered 161 severe environmental pollution incidents last year, without detailing what they were.
China also failed to realize its 2006 goals of reducing energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 4% and cutting emissions of pollutants by 2%, he said.
Due to the deteriorating environment, the environmental watchdog last year stopped or delayed the approval of 163 projects that would have had a serious impact on the environment, Pan said. Investment into the projects amounted to 770 billion yuan (US$98.8 billion), with more than half the projects dealing with high energy consumption and polluting industries such as steel-making, coal-fired power plants and petro-chemicals, he said.
A report in the China Daily newspaper Jan. 10 gave more details on the failure last year to meet environmental targets. Only six provinces, regions and municipalities out of the nation's 31 major administrative zones fulfilled their energy efficiency and pollution emission goals last year, the China Daily said.
Citing the National Development and Reform Commission, China's planning agency, the paper said energy consumption in the nation actually increased by 0.8% per unit of GDP during the first half of the year.
In November, the environmental administration said China produced more than 12 billion tons of industrial waste-water in the first half of 2006, up 2.4% from the previous year.
The watchdog also said half the country's rivers and more than 70% of rivers and lakes were polluted, while underground water supplies in 90% of Chinese cities were contaminated. The administration said in another earlier report that more than half of China's cities were suffering serious air pollution, largely caused by coal burning and the increasing use of cars.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007