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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
China plan to protect environment
Air pollution from a factory in north-eastern China
Pollution problems have grown along with China's economy
China plans to spend 1.4 trillion yuan ($175bn) over the next five years on protecting its environment.

The sum - equivalent to 1.5% of China's annual economic output - will be used to improve water quality, and cut air and land pollution and soil erosion.

China has some of the world's most polluted cities and waterways.

Beijing has often overlooked protecting the environment in the rush to develop its economy - but now it is paying the price, a BBC correspondent says.

A chemical spill in a river near the city of Harbin last year drew international attention, as water supplies to almost four million people had to be suspended for nearly a week.

Soil pollution

Under the plan, sewage treatment plants will be built in 10 river valleys to reduce the harmful impact of waste water from cities.

Money will also be spent on cutting levels of sulphur dioxide and dust in large cities.

The state-owned Xinhua news agency said money would be used to curb soil pollution, which has contaminated agricultural produce.

The agency quoted Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, as saying that every year 12 million metric tonnes of grain were polluted by heavy metals that had found their way into the soil.

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