The Chinese Government will invest 39.2 billion yuan (US$4.722 billion) over the next seven years, in an effort to clean up the Yangtze River, officials of the Ministry of Water Resources announced.
The efforts will concentrate on water pollution control in the Three Gorges Reservoir area, as well as in the upper reaches of the Yangtze.
The quality of water in the upper reaches of the river is expected to be, and remain, at grade two once the program is finished in 2009 - when the construction of the Three Gorges Project is completed.
Water quality is graded on a scale of one to five, with grade one representing the best quality and grade five the worst.
Currently the river water, although still able to meet the required standard for drinking, has suffered considerably from various pollutants in recent years.
Experts warned that soon after the Three Gorges Reservoir begins to store water, the rapid increase of various pollutants would pose a great challenge to the reservoir environment, as the self-cleaning capacity will be much weakened because of the slower flow of the water.
Based on careful research over the past 10 years, experts and officials have developed a water pollution prevention and control program for the upper reaches of the Yangtze. The program provides comprehensive solutions for pollution control in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan on the upper reaches of the river and for Chongqing Municipality and Hubei Province, located in the reservoir area.
By 2009, all cities and towns will have their own rubbish disposal facilities that will ensure that 100 percent of waste can be centrally disposed, said Zhang Yong, deputy director of Chongqing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
To reduce the level of discharge of industrial pollutants, more than 1,300 industrial factories in the reservoir area will be relocated or rectified.
When it is finally completed the reservoir of the Three Gorges, which is more than 600 kilometers long and covers an area of over 1,000 square kilometers, will submerge 300,000 square meters of public toilets, more than 40,000 tombs, and more than 4,000 hospitals, slaughter houses and other sites, all containing toxic materials.
All these potentially hazardous sites have been carefully logged and will be scientifically treated in various ways, officials guaranteed.
Plans have also been drawn up to solve pollution caused by ships. All ships passing through the reservoir area will be required to have special equipment to prevent oil seepage, while passenger ships will have to discard all waste when they dock, to ensure that it is disposed of correctly.
To prevent dirty water from being discharged into the reservoir, Chongqing has already built 19 sewage and five rubbish disposal centers, accounting for 86 percent and 54 percent of the planned total, said Zhang.