A Chinese campaign to close polluting factories on the Yangtze River appears to be yielding results after the names of the country’s worst water polluters were published and they were ordered to stop production or shut permanently.

Three factories in eastern Anhui province, including the largest in the county seat of Chaohu, have stopped production after they were named by the State Environmental Protection Agency in Beijing.

Another three have closed permanently and demolition has begun, according to Su Huimin, director of the Chaohu Sepa branch.

The success of Sepa’s campaign to close the factories or force them to change work practices will not be fully evident for a number of weeks.

In the past Sepa, a comparatively weak agency, has achieved early successes in campaigns only for factory owners to use connections to resume production once the fuss has died down.

But political pressure on senior officials to act on the environment is rising, as illustrated by a weekend outburst by Li Yuanchao, party secretary of neighbouring Jiangsu, one of China’s wealthiest provinces.

Mr Li, who is tipped for promotion this year to a senior position in Beijing, said he would be willing to sacrifice “15 per cent” of economic growth in Jiangsu to ensure that a large lake in the province was cleaned up.

Water supplies from Tai lake, near the city of Wuxi, were cut off in May after a blue-green algae caused by pollution from nearby factories covered the surface.

The incident was an embarrassment for Mr Li, who has campaigned for officials to be judged on their record on protecting the environment.

“The measures [to protect the environment] must be strictly implemented, even if they cause a 15 per cent downturn in the province’s gross domestic product,” Mr Li was quoted as saying.

In spite of Mr Li’s emphasis on the environment, a local activist who has pushed for years to stop pollution of the lake was recently jailed on allegations of extortion against polluting companies.

In Anhui, some factory owners say they have been singled out because of poor relations with the local government rather than because of pollution.

“Our waste water volume is tiny compared with most of the factories in the area,” said Hu Enlai, a manager at the Yuncao Distillery. The small liquor factory has had to send 70 of its 80 workers home while it fixes effluent pipes.

Eastern Anhui is blanketed with cement and fertiliser factories, almost all of them next to waterways that flow into the Yangtze.

But Mr Su of the Chaohu Sepa, who is appointed by the local government, insisted that most factories in the district met Beijing’s strict environmental standards.

The Jinghai Chemical Plant, a fertiliser factory near Chaohu owned by investors from distant Shanghai, had its power supply cut by the local government on Friday and has shut down production.

Both the chemical plant and the distillery have one month to fix their pollution problems or face closure.

The Wanwei chemical and cement plant has been ordered to stop production and resolve environmental issues within two months or close. The plant, in central Chaohu, employs 4,200 people and provides 10 per cent of the region’s income.

Workers at the plant said production had stopped and their salaries had been reduced while they all worked on cleaning and maintenance. The main production facility was deserted Monday afternoon.

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