China's chemical plants – delayed-action bombs for environment

The State Environmental Protection Administration found that 81 percent of 7,555 plants surveyed are on rivers or lakes or near population centers, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The report said that "if effective measures were not taken, the trend of surging environmental incidents in the country would not be checked," according to Xinhua. It didn't give any additional details of the survey.

Environmental protection, long ignored in China's breakneck economic growth, has taken on unprecedented official urgency following toxic river spills that forced several cities to cut off running water to millions of people, the AP reports.

Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior officials have warned that China faces a critical water shortage due to chronic pollution and chemical accidents. The government says some 340 million people already lack access to water deemed clean enough to drink.