China will close all petrochemical enterprises and sewage outlets in
environmentally sensitive areas along the Yangtze River by the end of
June next year, the National Development and Reform Commission said on
"These areas include nature reserves and drinking water sources,"
said Luo Guosan, head of the Department of Basic Industries under the
NDRC, the country's top economic regulator.
The country will also close all illegal petrochemical enterprises
with excessive pollutant emissions within a 1-kilometer radius of the
Yangtze River by the end of next June, said Luo.
"Legally operating enterprises within the 1-kilometer radius will be
encouraged to relocate," Luo said, adding that all petrochemical
enterprises within 1 kilometer of the riverbank will either be closed or
relocated by 2020.
By the end of 2016, around 11,000 petrochemical enterprises were
operating along the Yangtze River. There are more than 8,000 sewage
outlets with an annual discharge capacity of 100,000 cubic meters along
the country's longest river, according to the NDRC.
"Shutting down these petrochemical enterprises will result in
long-term benefits, since environmental benefits are more important than
economic gains," said Wu Xiaohua, deputy head of the Academy of
Macroeconomic Research under the NDRC.
It is common for petrochemical enterprises to locate along big
rivers, due to convenient transportation and easy access to water in
case of emergencies, said Wu.
In recent years, they have been shifting from the lower reaches of
the Yangtze River to the less-developed upper and middle reaches to
reduce operating costs, Wu said.
China will focus on pollution prevention and control over the next
three years, according to the statement released after last week's
Central Economic Work Conference.
The country has made environmental protection and restoration a top
priority of its development plan for the Yangtze River Economic Belt, a
national strategy to boost concerted development in riverside regions
and provide new growth drivers for the country's economy.
"In the first three quarters of this year, 77.3 percent of the
region's water met the Grade III standard or above, up by 2.5 percentage
points from last year," Luo said.
The country also closed all 959 illegal docks along the Yangtze River
by the end of September, 809 of which have undergone ecological
restoration, he said.
In the first three quarters of this year, the combined GDP of the
nine provinces and two municipalities involved in the Yangtze River
Economic Belt amounted to 26.7 trillion yuan ($4.1 trillion), up more
than 8 percent year-on-year, according to the NDRC.