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Projects that fail green test held

THE Chinese central government yesterday suspended the approval process on several new construction projects that failed environmental impact assessments, blacklisting the country's two major energy providers as well as steel works in Shandong Province.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said it has halted the assessment of construction applications by the China Huaneng Group and China Huadian Corp until they conduct certain environmental improvements to their energy-intensive and highly polluting projects including their hydropower stations over the Jinshajiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River, which had been started without environmental approvals.

The environment watchdog also suspended all construction applications from steel companies in Shandong Province since Rizhao Steel Holding Group and Weifang Iron and Steel Group started projects that violate the government's steel policy without getting the ministry's approval.

Ministry spokesman Tao Detian said the hydropower stations constructed by Huaneng and Huadian intercepted the river water without approval after environmental assessments, which could seriously affect ecosystems and people's lives downstream.

Shandong is one of the country's major steel-making regions and has environmental problems, the spokesman said. The suspension of new steel-making applications would promote an industrial upgrade in the province that could clean out highly polluting works and redundant projects.

According to the ministry, it had suspended or rejected 29 applications for new construction in petrochemical, steel-making and electricity-generating industries worth 146.7 billion yuan (US$21.5 billion).

The Chinese government has promised that its economic stimulus plan would not compromise anti-pollution efforts and policies would not be loosened to allow more projects to pass environmental examinations.

Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian said the government would abide by strict environmental standards when evaluating new projects.

"We did not lower our requirements for environmental protection while using 'fast-track' procedures to approve certain proposed projects," Zhou Shengxian said, referring to speculation that such procedures were used to approve polluting projects.


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