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BEIJING, April 18 (Xinhua) — “We cannot just sit for discussions behind the closed door while the sandy weather has raged outside for more than ten days,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced at a national conference on environmental protection.

“Besides climatic factors, it mirrors the critical environmental situation we are facing,” Wen said of Beijing being enveloped in yellow dust.

While addressing the conference held from Monday to Tuesday, Wen said China should be on high alert to fight against worsening environmental pollution and ecological deterioration in some regions, and environmental protection should be given a higher priority in the drive for national modernization.

The major targets of environmental protection during the recently ended tenth Five-Year Plan (2000-2005) were not achieved as scheduled, and new problems have emerged, he said.

China had set a target of cutting discharges of sulphur dioxideby 10 percent in 2000-2005. It set the same target for reducing emissions of carbon monoxide, but only managed a 2 percent cut, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

“Lack of awareness, insufficient planning, and a weak legal framework can be blamed for the severe environmental pollution in the country,” Wen noted.

The Premier has set out four priorities for current and future environmental protection. These include strengthening water conservation, controlling atmosphere and soil pollution, enhancingprotection of the national ecology, re-adjusting the economic structure and boosting the environmental technology and protectionindustry.

SEPA [Stete Environmental Protection Agency] has reported 45 other pollution accidents in the two and ahalf months after the Songhua River spill last November which had threatened water supplies of four million residents in the city ofHarbin, capital of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.

Another accident listed by the administration was a cadmium spill along the Beijiang River in South China’s Guangdong provincethat also threatened the local drinking and agricultural water supplies.

Other major water pollution incidents included chemical spills along Northeast China’s Hun River, central China’s Hunan’s Xiangjiang River, and a diesel spill along the Yellow River in Henan Province, as well as an oil spill in Ganjiang River in central China’s Jiangxi Province.

Wen ordered local governments on Monday to release information on energy consumption and pollutant emissions every six months, set plans to control emissions and step up environmental assessment of construction projects.

Protective policies on the exploitation of resources should be carried out and legal and supervisory systems established, acknowledged Wen, who also urged localities to allocate more moneyand raise public awareness of environmental protection.

Wen sets environment protection goals