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Last Updated: Friday, 7 April 2006, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
China sacks pollution officials
Chinese villagers fish in a polluted river near Yixing, in Jiangsu Province
China has acknowledged widespread pollution
Eight Chinese officials have lost their jobs over the pollution of a chain of lakes, state media reports say.

Factories and towns allowed untreated sewage and other waste to flow into the Baiyangdian lakes south-west of Beijing, an official report says.

The report, by the State Environmental Protection Agency, said the waste added to drought problems and hit wildlife.

Seven officials who were responsible for environmental protection have been fired, while another quit, it says.

China has recently embarked on a campaign to clean up its waterways.

The authorities have promised to spend hundreds of millions of dollars improving the country's rivers, since acknowledging that rapid economic growth has caused widespread pollution.

The Ministry of Water Resources estimates that 40% of water in China's 1,300 major waterways is fit only for industrial or agricultural use.

Factory closures

The scale of pollution in the Baiyangdian lakes became clear during the spring thaw, when masses of dead fish were uncovered.

Losses to local fisheries have been estimated at up to 15 million yuan ($1.9m, 1m).

The environmental agency's report concluded that a large number of local factories, most of them paper mills - couple with a lack of waste treatment in nearby towns - were largely to blame, the official People's Daily said.

The nearby city of Baoding has ordered many of the area's 200-plus factories to reduce operations or close, the agency said in a statement.

Another 11 businesses were punished, it added, without giving details.

China recently said it would spend more than $1.2bn cleaning up the Songhua River along the Russian border.

The river was polluted by toxic chemicals last year, cutting water supplies for five days to about 3.8m people in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.

The north-eastern province of Gansu, on the Yellow River, is to spend nearly five billion yuan on improving water quality by 2010, Xinhua reports, while neighbouring Shaanxi has allocated 4.5 billion yuan to clean up the Weihe River.

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