Conflicting proposals for environment and growth in China's draft five year plan
Addressing a national work conference Zhou said: "Some provinces have set their annual economic growth target at 14 percent; you can imagine how much pollution that will bring."
Although China's central government has put economic re-balancing high on its agenda for the next five years, with a lowered growth target in mind, most provinces are still aiming at 10 percent economic growth this year, with some even wanting to double economic output in the coming five years, local figures show. But the five-year targets are still awaiting approval from the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
Zhang Ping, who heads the National Development and Reform Commission, recently urged local governments to take into account the supply of "energy, environment, water and land" to set more reasonable growth targets.
Wu Changhua, Greater China director of The Climate Group in Beijing, told China Daily growth-obsessed practices at local level could lead to blind industrial expansion and might thwart the central leadership's pursuit of a more balanced and sustainable development model.
"When putting together the provincial targets, we find that the result is already much higher than the national plan. We have to find ways to curb this trend," said Wu.
Some economists predicted the central government might bring down the annual growth target to seven percent for the next five years from the current 10 percent.
Zhou said China had achieved a breakthrough in fighting pollution over the past five years, exceeding the 10 percent reduction target for water and air pollution. Two new pollutants - nitrogen oxides and ammonia nitrogen - will be included in the country's mandatory pollution control program between 2011 and 2016, while in 2011 the government hopes to achieve a 1.5 percent reduction for four major air and water pollutants.
Zhou also vowed to establish a sound prevention mechanism to tackle the increased outbreaks of heavy-metal pollution accidents. By 2015, the country will see an optimized industry structure for the heavy-metal sector, an emergency management system and an evaluation system on pollution and health risk, he said.
A nationwide plan to tackle heavy-metal pollution is waiting for approval from the State Council, which is likely to pass it this month, according to Zhou.