Paper mills in Shenyang have been told they face suspension and even closure if they do not meet strict wastewater control standards, a leading official in the city's municipal government announced.
The local authority is to launch a major campaign against polluting paper mills, the biggest water polluters in the area, in the remaining months of this year.
Statistics from Shenyang environmental protection bureau show that there are 53 paper mills involved in the campaign, and at present only one of them is able to meet the required standards.
"No company has the right to make money at the expense of the environment. It is illegal and we will not allow it any more," said Wang Xiangkun, vice-mayor of Shenyang, in Liaoning Province.
From now on, the government will not give polluting companies permission to operate.
It could also suspend loans, and shut down water and electricity supplies until mills meet the standards, Wang announced.
"I am not sure the campaign includes all the paper mills in Shenyang, but I promise we will deal with any one who dares to release wastewater without permission. And we are encouraging citizens to provide information," said Li Chao, chief of the environmental protection bureau.
Over half of all paper mills take no measures before discharging wastewater, and treatment facilities at the others are old and run down.
Last year Shengyang's mills released 3 million tons of wastewater, according to Li.
The East Wind Paper Mill in Yuhong district is one example of a polluting firm.
It directly discharged wastewater onto nearby farmland, causing serious pollution.
More than half of these companies are scattered along the Liaohe and Hunhe rivers, which poses a serious danger to drinking water, added Li.
He told China Daily that only those mills that could meet the standard would be allowed to continue operating.
But he admitted that over half of them have no chance of carrying on due to poor equipment and lack of capital.
Experts from Liaoning University expressed worries that this will lead large-scale job losses.
Statistics from the local government show there are 1,780 workers at the 50-plus mills. If the plants close, most will have to find new positions.
But Vice-Mayor Wang promised this wound not be a problem as the local government will help them.
"There are many positions here in Shenyang. Anybody who wants work can find it. We also have a complete social security network," said Wang.
The paper industry is one of the six seriously polluting industries that face restrictions.
The others includes brewing, small-size chemical works and oil refining.
Li said these industries would be dealt with in the near future.
"Local district government chiefs will be responsible for this clean up project. Anybody who refuses to take part, or creates hurdles, will be severely punished," said Wang Xiangkun.
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