China’s environmental suicide

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    Here's an article that's a translation of Der Spiegel interview with China's deputy environment minister Pan Yue. Includes:

    This [economic] miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace. Five of the ten most polluted cities worldwide are in China; acid rain is falling on one third of our territory; half of the water in China’s seven largest rivers is completely useless; a quarter of our citizens lack access to clean drinking water; a third of the urban population is breathing polluted air; less than a fifth of the rubbish in cities is treated and processed in an environmentally sustainable manner.

    China's environmental suicide: a government minister speaks

    (Anyone remember The Bad Earth by Vaclav Smil? – covered existing and looming environmental problems in China; when published in 1984, Chinese leadership said it was very wrong; yet his ideas later echoed by many within China. Not that China's alone in the environmental suicide attempt; but "ahead" of many.)


    Article in the Times covers the massive pollution leading to Harbin's drinking water being cut off for several days, and says it's part of broader environmental problems:

    The disaster that has cut off water to a city the size of London is a symptom of far wider problems. More than 70 per cent of China’s rivers are contaminated, more than a third of the country is plagued by acid rain and in the past 50 years it has lost more than 1,000 lakes. China is home to seven of the ten most-polluted cities in the world and urban smog causes more than 400,000 early deaths a year, the International Energy Agency says. … Officials admit pollution costs China 8 per cent to 15 per cent of its gross domestic product.

    Pollution, disaster, disease: the price of breakneck growth


    Strong article in NY Times, part of series on pollution in China and its ramifications. Reading this, you feel it's no surprise that Donald Tsang's Action Blue Sky Campaign seems to have made no more progress than being simply rhetoric. Includes:

    just as the speed and scale of China's rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party.

    And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut. Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China's leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud.

    Only 1 percent of the country's 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

    Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life. China is choking on its own success.

    As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes


    Foreign Affairs has another long article on China's protracted environmental crisis. Summary:

    China's environmental woes are mounting, and the country is fast becoming one of the leading polluters in the world. The situation continues to deteriorate because even when Beijing sets ambitious targets to protect the environment, local officials generally ignore them, preferring to concentrate on further advancing economic growth.

    Really improving the environment in China will require revolutionary bottom-up political and economic reforms.

    The Great Leap Backward?


    From BBC site:


    The man in charge of protecting China's environment has warned that pollution and the demand for resources threaten to choke economic growth.

    Environment Minister Zhou Shengxian said conflict between development and nature had never been so serious.

    He said if China meant to quadruple the size of its economy over 20 years without more damage, it would have to become more efficient in resource use.

    Otherwise, he said, there would be a painful price to pay.

    "In China's thousands of years of civilisation, the conflict between humanity and nature Zhou Shengxianhas never been as serious as it is today," he wrote.

    "The depletion, deterioration and exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of the environment have become serious bottlenecks constraining economic and social development."

    China, he said, would suffer unless issues of air and water pollution were prioritised.

    China pollution 'threatens growth'

    Even if you live far from China, don't think this won't have ramifications for you. This year, drought in east China may lead to higher world food prices; have a look at Middle East at present for ideas re what poor n hungry people can do.


    More on harm to environment including ecosystems; from Nature news:

    Counting the cost of decades of breakneck development, Chinese scientists and policy-makers last week outlined the daunting challenges they face in trying to halt the country's environmental degradation.

    Government officials at the Symposium on Ecosystem Monitoring and Evaluation in Beijing promised to step up investment in ecological conservation and restoration over the next five years, although no precise details were given. Other delegates warned that the lack of a national long-term strategic plan for the environment, compounded by insufficient coordination among government sectors, could jeopardize such efforts.

    "The ecological situation is terrible," admits Xu Jun of the Ministry of Science and Technology. More than a quarter of China's grasslands, for instance, have been lost to farming and mining activities in the past decade, and 90% of the country's remaining 4 million square kilometres of grassland is in poor health. The grassland loss contributes to problems such as water shortages and sandstorms.

    Coastal areas are under even greater pressure — from pollution, drainage and development. "Of all ecosystems, wetlands are the worst hit," says Yu Xiubo, an ecologist at the Beijing-based Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

    China faces up to 'terrible' state of its ecosystems

    Wetlands hardest hit by land reclamation and pollution.

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