A number of forward looking recommendations have resulted from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) field mission to China following the chemical spill incident in the Songhua River.
Endorsed by both UNEP and the Chinese government, the report from the four-person UNEP team notes that lessons learnt from the incident should be incorporated into policy, legislation and enforcement. China and UNEP have agreed to share this report with the relevant Russian authorities.
Looking to the future, the report suggests that the Chinese authorities might wish to consider implementing a programme such as UNEP's own Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level (APELL).
This aims to boost the coordination of local communities to an environmental emergency, and has proven to be an effective contribution to the risk reduction of industrial accidents.
The report further recommends the consideration of a risk assessment of a random sample of Chinese chemical factories in order to strengthen safety related procedures, to minimize the risk of accidents and the improved handling of accidents if they do occur.
The four person UNEP team visited China from 10 to 16 December 2005 at the invitation of the Chinese State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
The mission followed the chemical explosion at the Jilin Petrochemical plant in Jilin Province and subsequent pollution of the Songhua River. The UNEP team was invited to visit affected sites on the Songhua River and to meet and discuss the incident with local and national Chinese officials.
Overall the team was impressed by the Chinese commitment to regular and systematic pollution monitoring, the sharing of results and other information and their cooperation with Russian experts and the UNEP team itself.
The Chinese government in turn welcomed the valuable contribution that UNEP has made to its on-going efforts to respond to the Songhua River incident.
UNEP stands ready to assist the Chinese authorities in taking forward recommendations relating to the current spill and measures to reduce the risk of a similar incident in the future.
The full mission report including recommendations is available at unep.org