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Toxic Algae Pose New Health Scare in China

Two of China's biggest lakes are under renewed attack from toxic algae that destroy plant and fish life and threaten humans in the country's latest pollution scare, state media reported on Sunday . New satellite pictures of eastern China show the blue-green foul-smelling algae spreading in Taihu and Chaohu lakes, the Workers Daily newspaper said.

The toxic algae scare in Lake Taihu has already triggered government panic and forced residents of nearby Wuxi city in Jiangsu province to turn off contaminated tapwater supplies. Scientists said that algae was still infecting Lake Taihu and had spread to Chaohu Lake in neighbouring Anhui province, where 40 square kilometres (15 square miles) of its surface were covered by the green slime, the newspaper said.

Local government officials were monitoring water quality "by the hour" in the lake, Zhang Bangguo, Anhui province Environmental Protection Agency chief engineer was quoted as saying, describing the situation as "grave." Last Tuesday the algae scare in Lake Taihu triggered a demand for action from Premier Wen Jiabao, who was quoted in the media as describing it as a pollution "wake-up call."

More than 70 percent of China's waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are contaminated by pollution, according to government figures. This month, authorities ordered towns around Taihu to shut down all polluting factories and meet new water emission standards by the end of June 2008.


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