The purge will include the Xiluodu hydro project, based in the area bordering Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, along a section of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. It had involved an investment of US$5B.

The Three Gorges underground power plant, with an investment of US$846M, is also on the list of frozen developments.

‘The projects were halted because they failed to pass environmental impact assessments,’ said Pan Yue, SEPA’s vice-director, adding that they posed considerable threats to the environment.

The Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, effective since September 2003, stipulates that all projects must pass environmental impact assessments before they can be constructed. However, many go ahead without SEPA’s approval, assuming environmental bureaus will automatically approve them.

‘We must strengthen our efforts. We shall never be reduced to rubber-stamping. We must take concrete action,’ Pan added, vowing that his administration would step up efforts to curb heavily polluting projects.