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Technology vital to tackling water pollution issues

09-06-2010 10:29 BJT

In the area of waste water treatment, no country other than China has witnessed such rapid environmental progress - especially considering the nation's vast territory - yet much more effort will be required, said a water utility executive.

"The Chinese government has realized that rapid industrialization and urbanization has brought with it serious water pollution, and it has been quick to respond to such challenges by launching massive projects, equipping the nation's water facilities with the latest technologies and equipment," Antoine Frerot, CEO of Veolia Environment, told China Business Weekly.

"China began to realize the threat of industrial waste water 10 years ago, and had, so far, partly solved the problem," he said.

Paris-based Veolia, the world's largest water utility, is hoping to leverage its latest technologies to help local governments in China to alleviate threats posed by water pollution.

"We hope to further expand our business scope here working with local governments to consign third-party companies to handle water treatment businesses," the CEO said.

So far, Veolia's four major businesses, environmental services, water, energy and transport, all have a presence in China. And Frerot said his company will focus on services and technologies that no others can offer, aiming to provide customers with more added value.

"For example, we can provide all-around public transportation integration solutions, helping passengers better manage their schedules whether they are traveling by plane, train or car."

In the sector of waste pollutant discharge, Veolia is among the few companies in the world that can treat heavy chemical and industrial pollution.

"We hope that we can work in such challenging areas as environmental protection and transportation," said the CEO.

Entering China back in 1980s, the company has so far invested over $2 billion in about 68 projects in 41 cities across China, covering waste management, water treatment and energy. The firm currently has over 20,000 staff in China.

In the ongoing Shanghai Expo, Pudong Veolia Water Corp, a joint venture between Veolia and Shanghai Chengtou Co, launched a special taskforce back in 2009 to enhance water management, monitoring and production.

"We've been doing business in China and in Shanghai for a long time, mainly engaging in water treatment and waste recycling. We hope our businesses related to the Shanghai Expo will become a showcase for our latest technologies to the world," he said during his recent visit to Shanghai.

In Frerot's eyes, water pollution has become a serious threat not only to China, but also the entire world as well. In any municipality with a dense population, waste water pollution is an issue.

However, "as long as we are organized with management and technologies, we can control water pollution," he said.

Water pollution can be traced back to three origins: industrial pollution, daily-use pollution and agricultural pollution.

According to Frerot, industrial water pollution is the most dangerous as it poses a serious threat to water quality. In Western Europe, the law states that enterprises should internally treat water first before discharging it.

"This is an area that calls for high-tech and we've had 35-years' expertise on treating such pollutants."

For daily discharge, it's not as dangerous as industrial pollutants, and Frerot said he is confident that daily pollutants can be controlled.

Furthermore, he added, the bigger a city is, the more water treatment is linked with the drinkable water supply, and these two are complementary.

"Actually the cost on wastewater treatment is almost the same as those of producing drinkable tap water, so when a city pays attention to environmental protection, the water fee should comprise both the cost of tap water production and pollution control," he said.

Besides, agricultural-based pollution, such as the use of fertilizers, is becoming a much talked-about topic, as usage is different in different areas.

"So we need to target each farm, and encourage farmers to improve the way they work, thus enabling them to become active participants in water pollution control," said Frerot.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: China Daily

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