ADB Financing Water Improvements in Wake of Songhua Disaster

ChinaWatch Logo

China Watch Home

About China Watch

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing a US $2 billion environmental improvement project in the Songhua River area of northeastern China, according to an ADB official in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province. A key component of the project will be providing support for water management and treatment in the region, which suffered serious contamination from a toxic chemical spill in November that attracted international attention.

The ADB project will be implemented in two stages, beginning in 2007 and 2009 respectively. The first stage includes long-term initiatives such as building residential sewage treatment facilities, setting up foundations to fund future treatment projects, and monitoring pollution sources. These programs have all been approved, and feasibility studies have been completed for half of them, said Toru Shibuichi, ADB's chief representative in China.

The ADB has financed technical assistance for water pollution treatment in China for several years. In 2003, it helped establish a pollution early-warning system as well as systems for emergency management and water quality supervision at the Yellow River Basin in northern China. This January, it launched a separate $1 million project focused on improving water quality and managing pollution control for the Songhua River.

A survey carried out by the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) following the November chemical spill showed that more than half of China's 21,000-plus chemical plants are located along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. Many have not conducted environmental impact assessments and were built in improper locations. The report noted that more than 100 chemical plants have obvious environmental safety risks and threaten the nation's drinking water supply.

So far, SEPA has ordered the 100-plus plants on the watch list to improve their environmental standards. Meanwhile, those factories that failed to meet effluent standards have been ordered to cease production to ensure water safety. SEPA and the State Safe Production Supervision and Management bureau have issued an emergency notice urging the chemical factories to complete their pollution early-warning systems to prevent unexpected environmental contamination, Xinhua News reported.