China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Thursday, March 30, 2006

China Considers Tradable Pollution-Rights Permits

By Andrew Batson
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, March 29, 2006; D05

HONG KONG -- China might introduce a market-based system of fees and tradable permits for miners and industrial polluters to lessen the country's environmental problems.

Zhu Zhigang, a vice minister of finance, said in Hong Kong on Tuesday that China should increase monitoring and enforcement of environmental standards but that giving companies economic incentives to cut their pollution would be more effective.

"China imposes charges after pollution takes place, which forces the government into a passive position and doesn't allow it to implement an incentive system to get companies to actively protect the environment," Zhu said.

Zhu's comments reflect the increasing attention to environmental issues at the top levels of China's government. A string of major pollution accidents -- including a chemical spill late last year that forced authorities to turn off water for several days to millions of people-- has drawn attention to some of the consequences of the country's rush for economic growth.

President Hu Jintao's administration has made environmental protection a priority as it seeks more developed, sustainable economic growth. China's understaffed environmental regulators have struggled to enforce rules, and local governments often overlook violations by polluting companies that provide jobs and revenue.

Zhu said current penalties for polluters are too lenient and don't cover the costs of cleanup. It would be better for companies to pay for rights to discharge a certain quantity of pollutants. They could then buy and sell those rights, he said. "The trading of rights is an effective way to introduce market mechanisms into environmental protection," he said.

Such a system could also help reduce resistance of local governments to environmental standards, by giving them a large share -- perhaps 80 percent -- of the revenue from the proposed new permits, Zhu said.

China also plans to introduce a similar approach to mining, with coal mines serving as a test case for policies requiring companies to take account of environmental costs, Zhu said. Under the policy, regulators would require new mines to pay a market price for mining rights and to bear the cost of repairing environmental damage caused by their activities, he said. Corresponding fees would be levied on existing mines that received their franchises free.

The Chinese government is increasingly turning to taxes rather than administrative orders to achieve policy goals. In recent weeks, authorities have imposed taxes on disposable chopsticks and on exports of certain processed copper products, measures analysts said are driven by Beijing's desire to curb consumption of scarce resources.

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China to invest 10 bln yuan to control pollution of Songhua River

By Xinhua Writers Wu Jing, Wang Jingzhong and Tian Sulei

March 29 (Xinhua) -- China will invest 10 billion yuan(around 1.2 billion U.S. dollars) over the next five years to curb the pollution of the northeastern Songhua River, according to a plan approved by China's State Council on Wednesday.

plan is to prevent and control pollution in the drainage area of the river, which flows into a river on the China-Russia border. While approving the plan, the executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao also ordered the launch of a batch of projects to tackle industrial sources of pollution and treat urban sewage.

senior official with the State Bureau of Environment Protection (SBEP) said the plan will include more than 200 projects, among which 100 or more will work on pollution caused by industrial production. It is expected to enhance the ability to reduce chemical oxygen depletion (COD) by 70,000 tons each year.

projects will work on improving facilities for sewage processing and they are expected to handle 3 million tons of sewage every day. And the remaining 20 projects will focus on certain areas that were seriously polluted.

his remarks, the executive meeting of the State Council said that "priorities shall go to treatment and protection of collective sources of drinking water in large and medium-sized cities to ensure safety of drinking water and water quality of the China-Russia border river."

will also go to populous cities, namely, Harbin, Changchun, Jilin, Qiqihar, Daqing, Jiamusi, and Mudanjiang, an official with the State Development and Reform Commission said when asked to comment on the plan.

noted that the plan has proposed concrete measures to insure pollution control work and set targets for the work by 2010, which include:

Sources of drinking water in large and medium-sized cities in the area should be treated and put under protection.

Tasks to treat urban sewage of major cities and major sources of industrial pollution should be fulfilled.

Major pollution hazards should be effectively controlled and monitored. Total volume of discharge of major pollutants should be effectively controlled.

Water quality of seriously polluted water bodies in large and medium-sized cities should be improved.

Monitoring of water quality and water pollution early-warning and emergency response mechanisms in this area should be improved markedly.

meeting said the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the prevention and control of pollution in this area and has put it on the 11th Five-Year (2006-2010) Plan for national economic and social development.

the job well is of great significance to reinvigorating the old industrial base of Northeast China, boosting coordinated economic and social development and improving people's lives," the meeting said.

the same day, the SBEP announced that China had 73 incidents of water pollution following that of the Songhua River. SBEP Deputy Director Pan Yue said more active measures will be taken to monitor pollution, and more severe punishment will be given to those responsible for the pollution.

Songhua River suffered grave pollution last year, caused by accident at an upstream chemical plant. It forced cities along the river to temporarily suspend drawing water from the river, affecting the lives of millions of residents and normal operation of businesses.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Proposal made to handle gas leak in Chongqing

Related: Second plan to be employed to cap leakage-hit gas well in Chongqing
Capping of gas well starts in Chongqing
Plan scheduled to cap gas hit by leakage in Chongqing
Emergency measures in place to stop gas leak in Chongqing

Quilts are prepared for evacuators at a temporary shelter in Kaixian County, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, March 26, 2006. A gas leakage happened at a well in Kaixian County on the morning of March 25, prompting the local government to evacuate residents near the well. Around 10,000 locals have been evacuated. [Xinhua Photo]
People have a meal at a temporary shelter in Kaixian County, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, March 26, 2006. [Xinhua Photo]
March 27 (Xinhua) -- China's State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has made a four-point proposal on how to handle the gas leak at the Luojia No.2 gas well in Gaoqiao Town of Kaixian County, Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

Yizhong, head of SAWS, asked the well's owner China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to monitor the pressure changes in the nearby Luojia No.1 gas well closely.

CNPC should observe the components of the air coming from rivers near the Luojia No. 2 gas well. If any changes occur, CNPC must notify local authorities immediately to evacuate more residents out of the area, said Li.

demanded CNPC to pass on the information immediately to the environmental protection authorities to monitor the water pollution.

he required CNPC to make emergency plans to ensure the successful capping of the Luojia No. 2 gas well.

started to shut down the gas well at 10 am on Monday. More than 10,000 residents living within a one-km radius of the well were evacuated.

leak was spotted at the well Saturday morning. No casualties have been reported.

gas well is within the vicinity of the Luojia No. 16H Gas Well, where a deadly gas explosion killed 243 people on Dec. 23, 2003.

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Sandstorm continues to hit Beijing

BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Sandstorm continued to hit Beijing Monday morning, making the city's air quality much worsened due to sand and dust in the air.

in the city reports a dust density of 346 micrograms per cubic meter, marking the fourth day with heavy pollution due to sandstorm in Beijing this year, according to the municipal environmental protection department.

March 26, sandstorm started again in Mongolia, and northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Gansu Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The dust was brought to Beijing in strong winds early Monday morning, the department said.

Saturday, a heavy dust storm from Mongolia swept Beijing, and passed by late in the day. But on Sunday, strong winds brought dust to the city again

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Most netizens positive about tax on disposable wooden chopsticks

BEIJING, March 26 (Xinhuanet) -- In a survey by Chinese Website, 73 percent of the 25,000 respondents said they would avoid using disposable wooden chopsticks when a tax is imposed on them next month.

announced last week its plan to impose a five-percent consumption tax on disposable wooden chopsticks as of April 1 this year, in a bid to discourage their use as they are a waste of timber resources.

experts in the catering industry said the tax on each pair of chopsticks is very small, the idea behind the policy is much more important.

adjustment of consumption tax indicates that the government is paying more attention to sustainable development," said Gao Huiqing, an official with the State Information Center.

from street dining alcoves to delicately decorated restaurants, disposable wooden chopsticks have become typical tools for the Chinese.

production of disposable chopsticks uses up China's forests at a rate of 1.3 million cubic meters of timber or 2 million cubicmeters of forests each year, the Ministry of Finance said.

sells 10 million boxes of wooden chopsticks domestically and exports about 6 million boxes each year, which amounts to 15 billion pairs of chopsticks, according to the ministry.

order to help protect the environment by reducing consumption of timber resources, and narrow the gap between the poor and the rich by collecting a consumption tax on the luxury items, China will also impose a five percent tax on wooden floor panels.

country has also imposed a 10-percent tax on yachts, golf balls and golf clubs, and a 20-percent tax on luxury watches

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Safe drinking water tops anti-pollution agenda

March 26 (Xinhua) -- Safety of drinking water will be the top priority of the government of China's northernmost Heilongjiang province in the next five years.

will attach greater importance to ensuring a safe drinking water supply, building sewage treatment plants, and containing industrial pollution, said Yan Weiliang, a spokesman with the Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau at a recent press conference.

series of substantial measures will be employed, including the protection of drinking water sources, treatment of serious polluters and enhancement of water quality monitoring.

these are efforts to reduce pollution and improve the water quality of the Songhua River," Yan said.

a regular briefing system will also be established to provide public with access to information about the government's efforts on water pollution control.

100 tons of pollutants containing hazardous benzene spilled into the Songhua River after a chemical plant explosion on Nov. 13 in northeast China's Jilin Province.

incident obliged the cities along the river, including Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province and a city of more than three million people, to temporarily suspend the water supply.

this month, Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, told a press conference that the thawing of the frozen Songhua River will not cause a second pollution as spring approaches.

the situation is improving, the government will continue its efforts to monitor, test and analyse the water quality of the Songhua River in order to provide clean drinking water for local residents," Yan said.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

China studies sites for 2 new Yangtze River dams

BEIJING — Chinese water authorities are studying prospects for two new dams along the Yangtze River to supply power to the nearby municipality of Chongqing, sources said Friday.

The Yangtze Water Resources Commission recently finished an inspection of the Zhuyangxi and Xiaonanhai river stretches above the record-sized Three Gorges Dam to see if they are suitable for hydropower plants, Chongqing media reported this week.

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Beijing struggles to keep air clean

Beijing. March 24. INTERFAX-CHINA - Less than three months into the 2006, Beijing has seen air quality decline noticeably with the number of clean air days falling by more than 20% compared to the same period last year, according to government statistics and Interfax analysis.

By this time last year, the city had already enjoyed 60 "blue-sky" days, where the air quality does not exceed pollution standards. This year, there have been only 47.

Generally unfavorable weather conditions and man-made factors have both contributed to a general worsening of the air quality, a Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) representative told Interfax.

Despite the worsening overall situation, the city has enjoyed stretches of clean air. During the 10-day National Party Congress at the beginning of May, Beijing enjoyed nine clean air days and only one day that exceed the air quality standard.

The week following the Congress had only two clean air days.

The EPB spokesperson denied suggestions that any special measures were taken to improve air quality during the conference, citing the single polluted day as evidence. She also noted the air quality during this session was an improvement over last year's.

The 2005 National Party Congress session had three days of high pollution.

Beijing has set a blue-sky goal of 238 days for 2006, eight more days than 2005. The city will replace 8,000 aging taxis and 2,000 busses with less polluting vehicles to help meet this goal. Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, March 24, 2006

HK air pollution higher than most, comes from China

23 Mar 2006 10:57:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
HONG KONG, March 23 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's air is consistently more polluted than cities such as Bangkok, Paris and Taipei, and most of the grime floats over the border from China, an expert said on Thursday.
By analysing satellite images, scientists at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have monitored the level of aerosols, or atmospheric particles, in the air in Hong Kong and the neighbouring region of southern China since October.

Compared with aerosol levels in various other cities around the globe, the picture is grim.

"Hong Kong usually comes out higher than other cities," said Dr. Janet Nichol, head of the university's department of land surveying and geo-information. It was "not always higher than Beijing", though, she told reporters.

About 150 cities and other sites participate in NASA's Aerosol Robotic Network, monitoring air pollution around the world, she said.

Pollution in Hong Kong has been worsening, with the number of clear days dropping, respiratory problems on the rise and worries also increasing that the deteriorating environment is starting to affect the economy.

The group Friends of the Earth recently released a survey that showed nearly 40 percent of tour guides polled had received complaints about Hong Kong's air from visitors.

And the pollution is not locally produced; it comes from across the border, Nichol said.

Measuring air quality with sun photometers at two sites in Hong Kong -- one in the city centre and one about 15 miles (24 km) away by the border with China -- Nichol found that pollution levels went up and down basically in tandem.

That suggested most of the air pollution in Hong Kong was coming from across the border, as opposed to cars or other urban sources. "

One of the major sources, if not the major source, of aerosols in Hong Kong is factories," she said.

The Pearl River Delta is one of China's main economic engines, and it has long been known that factories there are major polluters. The monitoring station receives satellite pictures from NASA daily and will monitor air quality for 10 years. The University will also provide air pollution data to Hong Kong's environmental protection department.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yellow River's thirst for water brings China's shortages into light

ZHENGZHOU, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Although he lives beside the Yellow River, China's second longest and popularly known as China's Mother river, Du Ping is very concerned about water supply, which was the cause in a drop of his income last year.

farmer in Chongxing Town, northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, used to plant rice on his third of a hectare farm, but switched to maize last year as it requires less water. His income dropped by 250 U.S. dollars.

don't know what I will plant in the future if the river has less and less water," he sighed.

2001 and 2005, the average runoff of the Yellow River was about 25 percent below normal. Some parts of the river were dry for nine consecutive years beginning in 1990.

Yellow River plays a vital role in China as it provides water for 12 percent of China's 1.3 billion people.

has taken measures to protect water sources and control the total volume used by cities along the Yellow River, which prevented the river from drying up over the last six years.

average runoff in the Yellow River in the past four year is 42.8 billion cubic meters, down 26 percent from normal levels.

levels in the Yellow River are low because the demand for water is too high," said Li Guoying, head of Yellow River Conservancy Committee.

predict that by 2010 the river will be down by 10 billion cubic meters of water.

has a per capita water resources of 2,200 cubic meters, only 31 percent of the world's average. Currently, about 400 out of China's 660 cities lack water and 136 have reported severe water shortages.

shortages have been made worse by pollution. Both the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, the two longest rivers in China, have sounded alarms.

two out of 11 lakes along the Yangtze River reported fine water quality during spot tests in 2003. Meanwhile, statistics showed 70 percent of cities along the Yellow River did not have standard water supply.

the shortages wasteful water practices are still often seen. Every year 27 billion cubic meters of water was taken from Yellow River but it is not efficiently used by farmers or cities.

noted water resources expert in China, Zhang Guangdou, wrote recently that even after the gigantic South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the Yellow River will still lack water due to agriculture and industrial development.

key to ensuring the water supply is to use water economically and according to supply, Zhang said.

will take measures to ensure that water consumption levels out in the year 2030," said Vice Minister of Water Resources Hu Siyi at a conference to mark World Water Day 2006 on Wednesday.

order to save water, 17 provinces have begun to introduce quotas on water use in the past five years, while more than 10 provinces the price of tap water has continued to increase.

Yellow River starts in Qinghai Province in the northwest and flows through Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan, before passing through Shandong and emptying into the Bohai Sea.

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Free Flow: Clearer skies for safety in Asia-Pacific nations

MONTREAL Just over a decade ago, passengers could take their lives in their hands by flying on domestic airliners in China. Various other parts of the Asia-Pacific region were just as bad, if not worse. How interesting, therefore, that at the meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization here last week, China, India, Pakistan and the other countries of the Group of Asia/Pacific States supported the move to open to public view once-secret safety audits of the world's airlines. In the not-too-distant past, those countries probably would have been allies of Africa and South America in trying to deny the public access to the reports. Even more interesting was the clear - if polite - carrot-and-stick offer from the larger and richer Asian countries to give financial aid to the poorer countries of the region if, and only if, they make an honest effort to raise their level of aviation safety and are open to the public about their problems. Anyone who traveled to China as late as the early 1990s could easily have believed they were traveling back in time. Dropping from the sky at the Beijing airport and taxiing to an old threadbare terminal, planes passed row after row of ancient Russian aircraft, many so shabby-looking that one could not believe they could still fly. Worse, flying domestically in China was like a throw of the dice. In the newly opened Chinese business environment at the time, a passenger might luck into a fairly new U.S.-built plane with clearly professional crews. Sometimes, it was easy to believe one was on a U.S. or West European airline, except that the flight attendants and passengers were Chinese. The next flight, however, might have been on an old Russian aircraft with few, if any, seat belts, with boxes and luggage piled against exit doors and with no pretense of safety concerns by flight attendants or pilots. Some of those flights could raise concern, especially when a pilot landed in weather that clearly would have sent most pilots straight to an alternate airport. Crashes were fairly frequent. Today, however, a landing in Beijing is like that at any modern international airport, with a modern terminal, and it is difficult to find older aircraft. Most aircraft appear to be modern Boeing or Airbus products. Airbus has just signed an agreement with China to build aircraft at a plant in China. In 2005, not a single commercial aircraft crash was recorded in China. India, too, is bursting at the seams with new aircraft as aviation soars in a country where most people have never been on a plane. Pakistan is not only buying aircraft, but its pilots are clearly professional and well trained. The Asia/Pacific group therefore declared at the annual ICAO conference that its members were willing to spread their new professionalism and expertise to their poor cousins, complete with the financial resources to do it right. The group's paper said most countries in the region had a "genuine desire" to be in full compliance with international standards, but they "often lack the critical mass of aviation safety expertise or infrastructure to achieve this goal." At a meeting in Australia in September, the Asia/Pacific group found that countries short of aviation expertise "were well aware of the fact and would be willing to indicate their need for support, and second, that states possessing a great deal of resources with very high compliance status were willing to help their neighbors." But that report also said that before any money could flow, a country must do more than simply ask for it. First, the paper said, a country must show a desire to improve and demonstrate that it is serious about following international safety standards. But the group emphasized that the real test of serious intent is whether a country is willing to be open to regulators and the public about its problems and what it is doing to resolve them. This safety "transparency" - announcing the results of formerly secret ICAO safety audits to the public - was the central theme of the Montreal conference. Any country that is not open eventually will be embarrassed on a public Web site. But the Asia/Pacific group went one step further than the ICAO plan, offering money and assistance to countries that are open to the public about their plans and problems and that really want to fly safely. What a difference a decade makes.

China From Red to Green

By Roger Bate Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 Via AEI.orgchina-water

Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) arrive in China today to discuss the US-Chinese relationship. One area the Senators should address is the sustainability of China's growth. Financial and labor constraints may be the current focus of concern, but a far greater threat to China's long-term economic growth lies in its lack of attention to ecosystems.

Chinese surface water is depleting rapidly in quality and quantity. As the Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto says:

"For most Americans, it is unimaginable that the great Mississippi River would one day dry up and not reach the ocean. Yet between 1974 and 2000, China's Yellow River....ran dry 18 times. In 1998, the Yellow River failed to reach the ocean mouth for more than 250 days. With 1.3 billion people to feed, such water shortages are not just a major agricultural problem but a serious threat to China's economic and political stability."

And it's not just surface water: The deep aquifer under the North China Plain in Hebei Province (around Beijing) -- which will not be adequately replenished and is generally used as a last resort when the shallow aquifer runs dry -- is now being drilled and depleted at 10 feet a year, says the 2001 survey by the Geological Environmental Monitoring Group in Beijing. The impact of surface and groundwater depletion could be significant and soon: Charles Wolf of the Rand Corporation estimates such water shortages could indefinitely lower annual growth by as much as 2%.

But there is plenty of water in China, it's just in the wrong places for development and massive hydraulic infrastructure projects are needed to address the imbalance. But more importantly, property right systems are needed to ensure that allocations of water are used fairly and efficiently, particularly the new water brought by the huge engineering projects.

China should also adopt a system of water property rights much like that in US western states. Having successfully incorporated market forces into other areas of its booming economy, it's time to extend the same approach to the environment.

China's leadership needs to understand that market mechanisms can protect the environment every bit as effectively as they boost the production of CDs and cars.

But the Chinese Government will not get much support from the international community for this approach. To those meeting in Mexico for the fourth World Water Forum, climaxing today with UN's World Water Day, market solutions are rarely mentioned and never encouraged, and hence China considers itself safe to ignore such approaches.

To be fair China's task is made more difficult by the human rights and green groups, currently in Mexico, which undermine their own credibility by opposing dam development as a matter of principle. From the Three Gorges in China to the Narmada Dam in India, these groups ignore the benefits such projects can bring, such as generating electricity, reducing the risk of flooding and providing better irrigation for food production. Their exaggerated approach obscures the valid concerns about the dangers of ecological catastrophe and relocating tens of thousands of inhabitants. This makes China's Government defensive and less open to any sensible advice coming from international experts.

China's development patterns resemble those in the West in the early 20th century, when pollution was viewed as the inevitable price of growth. That's a common attitude in China today. For example, one Chinese businessman told me that pollution is a "price worth paying" -- an opinion shared by many local officials.

In building the Three Gorges, China has embarked on the largest dam development program the world has ever seen. According to the 2003 World Commission on Dams, China has the vast majority of the world's dams (47,655 representing 46% of the world's total) and the largest dam projects -- the Three Gorges Dam contains 26.43 million cubic meters of concrete and is twice the size of the former largest water conservation project in the world, the Itaipu Dam in Brazil. On the heels of that, the south-to-north water diversion project aims to divert water from the Yangtze to the Yellow, Huahe and Haihe Rivers at a rate of 38 - 48 billion cubic meters of water a year to accommodate the needs of 300 million people.

Yet although 70% of China's water supply is used for agricultural purposes, China's food production is not benefiting as much as it should. The efficiency level for crop production (the amount of water absorbed by plants and not lost to evaporation) is well below 50%, compared with over 65% in the U.S. Part of the reason is that many of China's irrigation Schemes were hastily designed, poorly constructed and built with inferior materials. Another reason is that China's massive size and population exacerbate the degree of damage done by any policy failure.

So why is China now facing a far greater ecological danger than the one those Western countries experienced when they went through similar phases of rapid development in the 20th century? The reason is that in the UK and the US, individuals had ownership rights over their local environment, even if they weren't always enforced. Ordinary Chinese, on the other hand, have never had those rights.

Efficient water use is closely linked to rights of property afforded by the English common law, for example, as all landowners may demand that water flowing past their land remains in decent, natural condition. The remedies available are injunction against polluters, enforceable by law and carrying a prison sentence for breach; and importantly, the polluter is responsible for compensating the owner for any loss and restoring the water to its former quality.

By the 1960s, lawsuits brought by individuals against polluters in the UK had led to the cleaning up of many rivers, long before government agencies added a layer of bureaucracy to such efforts.

In the US, river water is effectively owned by local landowners and fishermen in places like Montana and Wyoming. Although excessive federal government regulations often makes it difficult to trade, or even exercise, such rights, their very existence can empower individuals and act as a constraint on still greater government interference. And in many other countries, from Chile, to South America, Mexico, and especially Australia, allowing individuals to own water rights has benefited the poor and helped to improve the environment.

In the absence of such market solutions, China's rapid development has brought it to the brink of ecological disaster. Pan Yue, vice minister of the environment, addressed the problem at a news conference last year: "'China's population resources and environment have reached the limits of their capacity to cope. If we continue on this path of traditional industrial civilization, there is no chance that we will have sustainable development."

This problem cannot be solved until China allows local people, especially farmers, to own their water and trade usage rights. Allowing them to do so would ensure more efficient farm production, and lead to less water waste. Over the long-term, ownership rights can empower people and lead to political pressure for change.

As Russia is discovering, it's not possible to throw off the shackles of communism and then confine yourself to the bits of capitalism that appeal to the current oligarchs. Success will require the discipline of the market as much as the opportunity and growth it brings, and growth without responsibility is not sustainable.

Perhaps if the US Senators arriving today in Beijing discussed these issues with the Chinese Government they could do more for economic freedom in the region and strengthen ties with America's largest future trading partner. They would also be protecting the often beautiful but rapidly degrading Chinese environment.

Roger Bate is Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and his book "All the Water in the World" will be published later this year.

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China slaps tax on disposable wooden chopsticks, luxury goods

Wed Mar 22, 7:10 AM ET AFP

China will impose a tax on disposable wooden chopsticks in an effort to protect the environment and raise rates on yachts and other luxury goods to help narrow the wealth gap.

From April 1, a five percent consumption tax on chopsticks and wooden floor panels will be imposed to discourage their use and reduce waste of timber resources, the Finance Ministry said on its website late Tuesday.

China's production of disposable chopsticks uses 1.3 million cubic meters (45.5 million cubic feet) of timber each year, the ministry said, with the decision reported in the state press on Wednesday.

China sells 10 billion boxes of wooden chopsticks a year domestically and exports about six billion boxes annually, the China Daily newspaper said.

Also on the environment front, there will be minimal changes to the tax structure for smaller cars to encourage their use while autos with bigger emission ratings will be hit with undisclosed increases.

Oil-based products will also be taxed to reduce energy use. The tax on solvents and lubricants will be 0.2 yuan (2.5 US cents) per liter (0.26 gallon).

However companies will have to pay only 30 percent of the announced tax on the oil products to reduce the impact on industry.

To narrow the gap between rich and poor, yachts, golf clubs and golf balls will be taxed 10 percent, while high-end watches will be taxed 20 percent, according to the government.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

77 students sickened by poison smoke

Shanghai Daily Home

SEVENTY-SEVEN students were sickened by poisonous smoke from burning paint and industrial waste in Beijing's Chaoyang District.

All the students injured on Monday were discharged after hospital treatment, reported area newspapers yesterday.

Workers at a neighboring factory were using welding torches when they accidentally ignited discarded paint containers and industrial waste, igniting a fire, reports said. The workers put out the flames in about 10 minutes. The fire occurred at the site where some factory buildings were recently demolished.

The factory manufactures equipment for the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television.

The children of Shuangqiao No. 1 Primary School were attending a routine flag-raising ceremony about 10am on Monday when black smoke wafted into the campus.

"The smoke was very heavy, I wasn't able to see classmates before me, and my eyes shed tears," a girl identified as Xiao Jing was quoted as saying.

The thick smoke caused dizziness, headache, choking and nausea in many students.

The factory promised it would bear all responsibilities for the poisoning mishap.

It had paid the children's medical bills.

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China in search of balanced economy and sustainable development

21 March 2006 Via CIOB International News

As the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told the National People’s Congress earlier this month, because of the strain imposed on China’s natural resources and labour by the fast rate of economic growth – nearly 10 per cent last year - the rate is being cut back to around 7.5 per cent over the period of the country’s next five year plan.

Whereas China’s gross domestic product has been growing at an average rate of 9.5 per cent annually over the period 2000-2005, the growth rate has been set at two per cent lower from 2006 to 2010. Even so, by the close of the current five year plan, said the Premier, per capita GDP in China will be double what it was in 2000.

Last year per capita GDP in urban areas was said to be about 10,500 yuan, equivalent to some $1,300; the forecast for growth puts the 2010 figure at 13,390 yuan, dollar equivalent about $1,650. In rural areas the current per capita product is much less, 3,255 yuan currently in rural areas, dollar equivalent little more than $400. Economic development over the next five years is expected to lift rural incomes overall by less than 1,000 yuan.

The accent on economic policy now, according to Li Chong’an, vice-chairman of the National People’s Congress law committee, will be a shift from urban development and heavy investment in billion-dollar projects to boosting rural and scientific technology in the interests of sustainable development.

The summary of the five-year plan issued by the Government says that policy will now centre on building a sustainable national economic system and a resource-efficient and environment friendly society. The keynote will be reduced investment, consumption and waste while maintaining high output.

The outline emphasises concern for public health by asserting that sewage treatment and clean water supply will be extended to at least 70 per cent of China’s towns and cities, together with a sharp improvement in collection and disposal of urban waste. Planning procedures are to be tightened up by strict application of land use approvals and proper compensation when land is taken over for development.

There is also a promise to “deepen system reform, emphasising transformation of the government function, reform of company law, finance, taxation and banking.” The government is now speaking of improving the “socialist system of market economy to form a mechanism that favours the economic growth mode and pushes forward comprehensive, balanced and sustainable development.”

Formidable programme of public investment

Although there is talk of cutting back investment, the official summary issued in Beijing sets out a formidable programme of public investment for the period of the five-year plan, for example a million kilowatt nuclear power generating plants; supercritical thermal generating units; gasification combined cycle generating units, large hydro-power generating units and pumped storage generators.

Rail transport is set for substantial expansion, with plans to build high speed trains and new subway cars. Six new railways are projected, including one between Beijing and Shanghai; additionally five inter-city lines including one between Beijing and Tianjin are to be upgraded, and five other existing railways; 14 new expressways are planned, including one from Beijing to Hong Kong and Macao.

There are also plans to develop port transit systems at 12 seaports including Dailan, Tianjin and Shanghai to promote transport of coal and imported oil and gas, iron ore and containers.

The third phase of the deep-water dredging project at the mouth of the Yangtse will be put in hand, as also improving the course of the Pearl River at its mouth to the sea. The transport investment programme provides for expansion of ten airports, including those in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Despite the planned slowdown in the pace of economic development, China’s leadership has pledged to improve the lot of rural populations by launching a ‘new socialist countryside drive’ to benefit the 750 million farmers.

Progress in poverty reduction

As the President of the Asian Development Bank, Haruhiko Kuroda, put a somewhat different perspective on the picture in his address to the China Development Forum in Beijing, pointing out that despite notable progress in poverty reduction, China still has a very large population of poor people.

“Using the one dollar per day guideline,” he said, “about 135 million people were classified as poor in 2004 against the international standard.

“The speed of poverty reduction has slowed, partly due to the slow growth in rural income in recent years. Moreover, income distribution actually worsened in the past two decades.

“If economic growth is to benefit most of the population”, he said, “it must be equitable and inclusive. While some deterioration in income distribution is inevitable as China moves from a centrally planned to a market economy, the speed of the growing inequality is worrying.

“China’s income inequality is now above the average of many regions. The poor interior regions have not benefited as much from economic growth and reforms as the east coast. Per capita GDP in the interior is less than half that along the east coast.

“An ADB business climate survey found that about 39 per cent of foreign companies operating in China would not consider expanding their operations into the interior provinces, mainly because of a lack of markets and poor infrastructure.”

Looking at remedial measures that might be applied for lack of balance in the national economy, Mr. Kuroda said that in the view of the Bank, continued reform in the legal and regulatory system is needed to support the market economy and to conform to World Trade Organisation rules.

“In order to minimise waste of public resources and reduce corruption, considerable work needs to be done to improve the country’s auditing and accounting systems.

“It is also important to build public administration capabilities in the central and western provinces and support efforts to broaden public participation in the decisions that affect them. Our experience has taught us that sustainable social and economic development requires strong government partnerships with civil society.”

China, he said, was also facing a very large challenge over the state of the environment. “Inappropriate pricing, use of obsolete and polluting technologies, limited natural resources and weaknesses in environmental management have left a legacy of land degradation, poor and declining water quality, air pollution and acid rain.

“Over the next two to three decades”, he forecast, “rapid growth, industrialisation and urbanisation will place even greater pressure on China’s environment and natural resources.”

From the Chinese Premier’s recent address on the state of the nation and the development of policy over the next five years, it sounds as though the National People’s Congress has got the message. The accent will be on rectifying the damage done to the environment by the rapid expansion of industrial processes, and securing a drastic improvement in standards of public health.

The really difficult question is what Mr. Kuroda described as establishing a more equitable distribution of wealth. On that there is a long way to go, but this problem is by no means unique to China and they will not find that a great deal of sound advice is available on the right way to tackle it.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Anti-pollution drive launched in Liaoning

BEIJING, March 20 Via ChinaDaily-- All cities in Northeast China's Liaoning Province now have special vehicles to detect and respond to environmental accidents.

recently handed over environment emergency monitoring vehicles to 11 of the 14 cities in the province.

other three cities, Shenyang, Dalian and Fushun, equipped themselves with the mobile stations several years ago.

vehicles mean it will take us less than half the time it would have done to monitor and examine pollution incidents if we faced such environmental disasters as the Songhua River accident. Our system is now among the best in China," said Zhao Hengxin, a top official from Liaoning Environmental Protection Bureau.

80 kilometre-long slick of benzene was formed on the Songhua River last November after a blast at a neighbouring PetroChina chemical factory in the northeastern Jilin Province.

14 vehicles, costing 700,000 yuan (US$87,500) each, are specially designed for environmental purposes. Their back seats have been removed to fit various kinds of monitoring equipment, including refrigerators, generators and labs. On its roofs, there are monitoring cameras.

vehicles are capable of accurately detecting the pollutants' volume and any changes in water and air to provide immediate assistance at accident sites.

these mobile detecting stations, we can drive into the heart of the accident area and start work there. This could make the difference between life and death at certain accidents," said Bi Tong, chief of Liaoning environmental monitoring central station.

vehicles may also eventually be used for monitoring the cities' major pollutant producers, such as chemical plants.

Zhao said the current vehicles have only basic equipment, which are confined for water and air examination.

need at least 2 million yuan (US$250,000) to equip each vehicle to do more things," Zhao said.

has taken a range of measures to protect the environment.

has invested almost 300 million yuan (US$37 million) in establishing 68 air and eight water monitoring stations in sensitive areas.

have covered all 44 counties with such stations, which can provide basic pollution monitoring and examination," said Zhao.

province's emergency response mechanism, however, is still considered rather backward.

to Zhao, Liaoning will invest 1 billion yuan (US$123 million) to build an environmental alert and response system during the 11th Five Plan (2006-10) period.

order to deal with increasing environmental disasters, several major cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, have been equipped with such vehicles.

insiders said the potential market for the vehicles is huge, with the country paying more attention to environmental protection.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

"Cancer village" highlights China's water woes

Cancer sufferer Zhang Yaoxun, 58, who blames polluted water for his condition
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 20 March 2006 1036 hrs

"Cancer village" highlights China's water woes

WULI VILLAGE, China Via AFP - Wei Dongying dumped 30 plastic bottles from an oversized plastic bag onto her living room floor.

"Look at all the different colours: red, black, yellow, brown," said Wei as she picked up the bottles containing samples of water taken from the canals and viaducts surrounding Wuli, a village of 1,500 people in eastern China.

"The water used to be clear here. Now look at it. Filthy, undrinkable polluted water."

Wei, 38, is a fisherman's wife who became an environmental activist after a personal health scare she believes was related to the intense pollution in the village.

In late 2002, Wei discovered two hard lumps on her lymph nodes.

"I had them removed and the doctors said it was a 90 percent chance that the problem was related to the environment," said Wei, 38, rolling down her collar to reveal the scar across her throat from the operation.

Although her growths proved benign, about 60 other Wuli residents have contracted cancer, including her brother-in-law who died in 1998 at the age of 47.

Wuli is described in China's media as being one of the nation's so-called "cancer villages", a legacy of the pollution caused by a chemical industrial park with 25 factories that was set up there in 1992.

Located about 220 kilometres (135 miles) southwest of Shanghai along the Qiantang river, it is not just the water that has been degraded but also the air.

Gaseous, bitter chemicals assault the nose, lingering on the tongue and itching the throat.

The situation in Wuli is a depressingly familiar one around China, especially along China's heavily industrialized eastern beltway where factories take advantage of the natural waterways to expel toxic waste.

More than 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted, while underground water supplies in 90 percent of Chinese cities are contaminated, according to government reports.

Chen Weifang, vice chief of the Xiaoshan district environmental bureau that has jurisdiction of Wuli, said one of the main problems was that fines for polluting factories were too low.

The factories often discharge their chemicals into the water at night to avoid detection and are happy to pay the fines when they were eventually caught, according to Chen.

Corruption involving industry and local government officials is also widely regarded as a major problem, environmental activists say.

Meanwhile, on many factory walls in the village, such as the one at the Hangzhou Dazhan Biochemicals Company, are notices calling for the environment to be protected.

"Control the pollution in order to survive, protect the environment to develop," the notice reads. "The protection of the environment is everyone's responsibility."

Chen said that while the rates of cancer in the village were not higher than surrounding areas, he still believed there could be a link between the pollution and the deadly disease.

"To be frank, I think it (Wuli's cancer rate) would be much lower if the village were not polluted," Chen said.

The story is disturbingly similar across the border in Jiangsu province, if not worse.

In Yixing, a city of more than one million people, water pollution in its townships is so severe that the area has received numerous official visits by top party brass, including Premier Wen Jiabao.

Wen admitted at the end of the China annual parliamentary session in Beijing last week that the ruling Communist Party had allowed the unbridled economic expansion of the past two decades to severely damage the nation's environment.

"We need to step up our efforts to carry out special environmental and ecological campaigns. ... we need to pay attention to the protection of major waters, air and land," Wen urged.

But amid the heightened party worries that China's growth model is environmentally unsustainable, little is being done because immediate economic interests continue to come first, environmental activists say.

"The government and industry are connected to each other like a chain, they are inseparable," said Wu Lihong, a local environmental activist in Yixing.

"The central government is good but it can't see what's happening here with the local government colluding with the factories."

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Video pollution offends people's peaceful minds

BEIJING, March 18 Via ChinaDaily -- The mushrooming video screens in buses, taxis and apartment lobbies in cities like Shanghai are taking away our already scarce resource: a place for a moment of peace.

a doze or reading a book on buses is less pleasant now, as the LCD screens broadcast news, entertainment and adverts at unbearable volumes.

pay the bus fare simply to get a ride - fast and undisturbed - but now you are forced to watch and listen when bus companies team up with advertising companies to provide you with this "added value," whether you like it or not.

it's a crowded bus, the noise from this "entertainment" is even more exasperating.

and more Chinese cities have joined Shanghai, regarded as the first to install video screens on buses, to annoy tens of millions of passengers.

just a matter of years, the LCD screens have made inroads into not only buses, but into apartment building lobbies, shopping malls, taxis and even public toilets.

a city like Shanghai, it is getting harder every passing day to find a public place free of this video pollution.

is true that some people may like to watch programmes aired on buses or in apartment lobbies. But the fact is that those who don't should be equally respected. Their rights to enjoy a bus ride in quiet should be fully protected.

this group of people, the bus companies' actions are simply offensive.

of the bus screens, students cannot focus on reviewing their lessons or preparing for a test. People who like to read a novel or reflect feel unsettled by the noise. Youngsters who like to listen to music on their iPods must increase the volume to offset the competing audio.

you already feel stressed after a hectic day in a city like Shanghai, the compulsory bus video advertising certainly escalates the tension of both your muscles and nervous system.

drivers and conductors are surely the worst victims because they have to bear it at least eight hours a day, non-stop.

high public tolerance for - and low public awareness of - noise pollution has provided bus video advertisers with a paradise in which to expand their businesses.

companies involved in the business have already become rising stars on the stock market.

opposition has already started to make its voice heard.

people have already accused bus companies of violating their contracts, since their obligation is to deliver passengers to their destinations, not bombard them with noisy broadcasts.

are also complaining to consumers rights associations at various levels.

Urumqi of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, parents protested against improper obstetric/gynaecology commercials on video-equipped buses that might be disturbing to their children.

the bus TV market may be lucrative, bus companies and their collaborators - the advertising firms - are simply unethical in planting the screens in buses without getting a nod from commuters, or residents in the case of apartment lobbies.

if the majority of passengers and residents enjoy the programming, the minority should still be respected and given a choice.

situations are dealt with much better on planes, where passengers are given headphones if they want to listen to programmes. Those who don't can still sleep soundly or read their books.

should legislate against such sight and sound pollution in public places, just as they deal with any other kind of pollution.

is a reason why you don't see such annoyances in other major international cities around the world, definitely not because they don't have the money and technology to do this. It is simply a matter of civic conduct.

government should take action to stop the blatant abuse of the public interest and protect the consumers' rights.

general public that relies so much on public transit system and opposes the bus video screens should also make more noise to consumer rights associations, bus companies and advertisers, before those companies discover more places for the screens.

betting on the bus video bonanza should start to revise their business strategy, because rising public discontent may hurt their bottom lines.

video screens do not strike a chord of harmony among passengers at a time when our whole nation is talking about building a harmonious society.

which aspires to become a world-class city and host the World Expo 2010, should set an example for the rest of the country. It should first adopt world-class behaviour in its massive public transit system.

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Hong Kong issues health warning due to high-level air pollution

03.16.2006, 11:42 PM

HONG KONG (AFX) - Hong Kong issued a health
warning as air pollution reached high levels and cloaked the territory
in dense smog.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental
Protection Department said calm air had trapped pollutants from both
Hong Kong and China's heavily industrialized neighboring Pearl River

The pollution index in some areas reached as
high as 133 on a 1-200 scale, officials said, and the government
advised people with heart or respiratory illnesses to avoid outdoor

Friends of the Earth Hong Kong estimates that
some 80 pct of the pollution drifts in from the Pearl River Delta,
China's economic powerhouse.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pollution fight

Published: 17 Mar 2006 Via Channel4 News of UK
By: Ian Williams Ian Williams looks at how China is fighting pollution in Beijing in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. >>Watch the report Sharpshooters - counter-terrorism experts - and 2,000 extra police are being recruited by the to make sure the 2008 Beijing Olympics are safe, the country's state media reported today. But China's also promised to hold a Green Games: and that means cleaning up the capital's heavily polluted air. Construction of the actual venues is going well, but improving the fast-growing city's enviroment remains a huge challenge. Technorati Tags: , ,

Tens of thousands to cross Pearl River as China strives for clean water

GUANGZHOU, March 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Tens of thousands of people in the southern city of Guangzhou will wade across the Pearl River, the third largest in China, in August 2006, as a symbol of the country's drive to clean its rivers.

launched the last mass crossing of the river in the 1970s but for the last 30 years, it has been impossible for a large group of people to swim across it due to heavy pollution.

water was limpid and full of fish before the late 1970s," recalled 66-year-old Guangzhou resident Li Yinghe. "At that time, we fetched drinking water directly from the river."

the accelerating industrialization in the Pearl River Delta after China adopted the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s resulted in serious pollution alongside rapid economic growth and improvement of people's living standards.

river began to smell and could not support fish in the late 1990s.

water was once so smelly that people even covered their noses when walking near," said Li Yinghe.

Pearl River was not the only river in China to suffered from bad pollution. "More than 70 percent of the country's rivers and lakes are polluted to a varying degree," said Gu Hao, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources.

than 300 million rural residents in China still lack access to clean water.

believe the water pollution not only aggravated water shortages, but also harmed people's health.

river crossing is far more than a sports activity," said Lin Shusen, party secretary of Guangzhou. "We hope we can turn Guangzhou into an environment-friendly city."

Zhang Guangning said that 9.5 billion yuan (about 1.18 billion US dollars) had been spent in preventing and controlling the pollution of the Pearl River since Guangdong resolved to transform it into clean river again in the late 1990's.

will invest another 18 billion yuan (about 2.24 billion US dollars) to solve the pollution in the next five years," said Zhang.

also stepped up cooperation on curbing pollution with provinces and regions along the river, including Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi.

quality in the Pearl River has improved a lot, yet many others were hit hard by heavy pollution and several of them, most notably the Songhua River in northeast China, was even contaminated by chemical spills last year, causing the cut-off of water supplies to million of people.

address the severe problem, the Chinese government unveiled a plan in Feb. 2006 to combat degradation of the country's environment for the next 15 years, with pollution control high on the agenda.

achieve the goals, the central government has outlined seven major tasks for environmental protection, with five focusing on pollution control including water, air and soil.

Wen Jiabao also addressed the National People's Congress earlier this month saying that the governments at various levels should make relentless efforts to ensure clean water and green lands for the future generations.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

The prospects for China's recycling industry

Last Updated(Beijing Time):2006-03-16 09:10

Great efforts in developing the recycling industry can effectively relieve China's problem of resource shortage.

China is a country in which the per capita resources are comparatively short of. The per capita occupancy of 45 major resources is less than a half of the average value in the world, and the per capita reserves of such important mineral resources as petroleum, natural gas, copper, aluminum, etc. are respectively 8.3 percent, 4.1 percent, 25.5 percent, and 9.7 per cent of the average per capita occupancy in the world.

As far as the current situation is concerned, 400 major diggings in China have entered into their middle and late periods with the utilization rate decreasing to less than 30 percent and the exploitation costs becoming 2-4 times of those abroad, and most of which have become a heavily-stricken area of pollution and casualty.

With a view on the future, only 11 out of 45 major mineral resources in China can rely on the country itself for guarantee the supplies while such important mineral resources like iron ores and alumina, which are significant for the national economic safety, will be short of for a long run. On the other hand, there are 5 million tons of used steel and iron, over 200,000 tons of non-ferrous metal, 14 million tons of waste paper and a great volume of waste plastic and waste glass that could be recycled and utilized within China each year; even those having been recycled and utilized are also treated with simple forms giving priority to the limited recycle of materials, the recycle and utilization rate is comparatively low due to the shortage of resource recycle on a higher level with the content of product reutilization and remanufacture.
/>It is estimated that if the 14 million tons of waster paper in China were recycled for utilization, 11.2 million tons of fresh paper could be produced, 240 million trees could continue to grow, and a half of the papermaking energy sources could be saved. Therefore, to develop the recycling industry with great efforts can effectively relieve China's increasingly severe problems in terms of resource shortage.

To develop the recycling industry with great efforts can effectively relieve the pressure on China's environment carrying capability.

Ever since the beginning of reform and opening-up, China's economy has been growing rapidly in a sustained way. But the extensive way of the growth have caused severe pollution to our environment. For instance, China's discharged wastewater can add up to 43.95 billion tons, which has surpassed 82 percent of the environment carrying capacity. As shown by the " Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)" relieved to assess the quality of environment in all countries (regions) all over the world in Davos, Switzerland, China ranks the 133rd among the 144 countries and regions across the world. Severe environmental problems have become an important factor restricting the sustainable development of China, but to develop the recycling industry can effectively relieve the pressures on China's environment carrying capacity.

Great efforts to develop the recycling industry can increase employment posts. As a whole, the recycling industry is a labor-intensive industry; so, great efforts to develop the recycling industry can both effectively make use of China's comparative advantages and increase employment posts so as to relieve the pressures on employment. The investigation shows that with every import of 10,000 tons of waste material, there will be an increment of 1000 employment.
/>For the moment, there have existed nearly 10 million dismantling enterprises in the Changjiang River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, thus shaping up the industrial chain of "imports of waste and used products – exports of new products regenerated -- imports of waste and used products" and processing areas, which have not only promoted the rapid development of the local economies but also have created the employment of tens of millions people. In addition, the network of reclaiming waste and used materials, which spreads all over the middle and large cities in China, has become an important channel to solve the employment issues for migrant workers from the countryside.
/>There lack a sufficient realization of the development of the recycling industry. Experts pointed out that waste and used materials are a kind of "resource misplaced and mixed together" and the solely increasing "rich ore" across the world that will sooner or later replace the underground mineral resources and can be found everywhere. But in China, some people still have their misunderstanding of the development of the recycling industry at present, thus sometimes equating the reclaiming and utilization of recycled resources with counterfeiting and pollutions to the environment; still, some people confusingly regard imported waste and used materials as "imported garbage", "losing face" and "a damage to the national image". In foreign countries, people engaged in the recycling industry are called "engineers creating the future" with respect; but here in China, they are called "kings of garbage", "scrap-collectors", "the gang of beggars", "the army of rake" etc. and suffer their disadvantaged social status. In some places, the "recycle industry" was even called off as the reclaiming of waste and used materials influences the image of a city. All such phenomena are severely holding back the development of China's recycling industry.

The objectives for the development of the industry are not clear. For a long period of time, there has not formed the market-centered tenet for social service in China's recycling industry; thus, there lacks an explicit objective for the development of the industry.

Relevant laws and regulations as well as policies are distempered. In order to make the best use of recycled resources, some developed countries in the west have put forth laws and regulations as well as policies to encourage the development of the recycle economy successively, which have greatly driven the development of the recycling industry. But in China, laws and regulations as well as policies that promote the development of the recycling industry are insufficient, thus making people and enterprises doubtful about the development of the industry and less confident so as to dare not invest too many funds to enlarge the operational scale and improve the technological level.
/>The resource recycle technologies lag comparatively far behind. Due to insufficient emphasis and comparatively less investment, China's R capabilities in resource recycle are rather weak, which leads to the behind-lagging technics in processing waste and used materials and the comparatively low level of technologies and equipment. Thus, there exists a rather huge gap between the reality and the requirements on the integrated utilization of resources and environmental protection. Especially, the reclaiming and utilization technologies in such waste and used materials like storage batteries, dry batteries, computers, TV sets, and refrigerators still lag behind comparatively, which has led to a failure to make effective use of a great deal of electronic "garbage". In recent years, it is still difficult to spread and apply some of the applicable advanced technologies due to the lack of funds although the state has reinforced the research and development of relevant technologies and has made some achievements.

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Environment protection a major issue

By Zhang Feng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-17 05:40

An overwhelming 97 per cent of Chinese consumers care about the environment; and almost as many would boycott products made by companies which are insensitive to pollution.

These are the findings of a recent survey among 9,000 consumers from nine major countries that included the United States, Russia and Australia.

Global market intelligence solutions provider Global Market Insite Inc (GMI), found that the figure for consumers avoiding goods made by polluting companies 96 per cent in China to be the highest among the countries in the survey.

Only those with access to the Internet were polled and the majority of the 1,000 people surveyed in China were from four big cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, said Benny Huang, GMI's director of marketing for Asia Pacific.

The Chinese interviewees included civil servants, university students, company employees and other well-educated people, Huang said, adding that the results could not be extrapolated to those living in rural areas or those who do not use the Internet.

The results were released to coincide with the upcoming International Earth Day on March 20.

Chinese consumers also ranked first in saving electricity and gas, as well as water 73 per cent and 78 per cent.

In the past year, Chinese consumers also performed the following environmentally-friendly acts:

99 per cent used low-energy-consuming light bulbs at home;

More than 94 per cent avoided buying products whose packaging causes potential environment hazards;

93 per cent did not buy a particular product because of excessive packaging;

More than 92 per cent bought toilet paper or kitchen towels made from recycled paper.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

China fights against pollution to ensure drinking water safety

GUANGDONG, March 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The legislature of southern Guangdong Province, an economic engine of China, is creating a law to protect its supply of drinking water.

draft of the law will be discussed in the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress in August and there is no time to delay in ensuring the safety of drinking water through legal means, said Yuan Zheng, deputy director of the Environment and Resources Protection Committee under the congress.

fate is not exceptional in China. As the world's largest developing nation, China is suffering from an increasingly serious crisis in drinking water safety as it has made rapid economic development.

than 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted to varying extent, said Gu Hao, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources.

provide clean drinking water is the top priority of the Chinese government's efforts to protect water resources and the ministry plans to start with water pollution control, said Gu.

like the dry climate and special geologic conditions endanger water safety in some areas, while, for more areas, pollution is the 'arch-foe' of drinking water," said Gu.

is a case in point.

the province has built a lot of sewage treatment plants in recent years, the waste water discharge volume has risen. A chain of major environmental hazards have also worsened the water quality in urban cities, said Gu.

water supply of Harbin, northeast China, was shut down for four days last November after about 4 million people were affected after the Songhua River incurred serious pollution because of a chemical plant spill upstream.

than one month later, a spill of more than 1,000 tons of heavy cadmium contaminated water from a smelting plant in Guangdong polluted the Beijiang River, reducing the water supply for more than 20 towns and cities.

to the cities, the water safety situation is more worrying in China's vast rural areas with over two thirds of the country's population, Gu acknowledged.

than 300 million people in rural areas do not have adequate clean drinking water and hundreds of thousands of Chinese are afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt, said the spokesman.

cruel reality of water safety has aroused the attention of the Chinese government. President Hu Jintao has instructed local and provincial governments to put drinking water resources protection on top of their agendas.

spent 2 billion yuan (about 250 million U. S. dollars) tohelp 11 million members of the rural population access to drinking water in 2005 and the input would be doubled this year with another 20 million farmers expected to have safe water to drink, said Gu.

would lower the population faced with drinking water problems to a third by 2010 and ensure safe drinking water for every one by 2020, said Gu.

hit the target, the government will provide guarantee investment for project construction," Gu said. "The ministry will map out a comprehensive plan and put it into practice this year."

addition, large-scale pollution control work was carried out on major rivers.

discharge of waste will be curbed, sewage treatment facilities will be improved and those responsible for the majority of the pollution will be closed down, said Zhou Shengxian, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

than 700 engineering staff from the Ministry of Water Resources are probing the pollution of drinking water sources in Guangdong to provide first-hand information for local government to carry out proper water sources management, said Yuan Zheng.

activities leading to water pollution are crimes and should receive due penalty," he said. Technorati Tags: , ,

Develop and be dammed - China to build on virgin river

By David Stanway

Shanghai. March 15. INTERFAX-CHINA - The International Day of Action Against Dams fell on Tuesday. Interfax marks the occasion with a special report on the current state of play in China's hydropower industry.

From left to right: the Mekong at Xishuangbanna, the construction site at the Three Gorges, the Sanmenxia Dam in Henan Province, the Nu (Salween) River in northern Yunnan, the Min River in Sichuan and the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Images: Interfax

Most experts agree that the construction of 13 dams on the Salween, one of China's last untouched rivers, will begin soon. The river, which emerges from the Himalayas and wriggles its way through more than a hundred kilometers of spectacular canyons, several struggling conurbations and dozens of remote rural settlements before leaving China via Yunnan Province, is regarded as a "test case" for the future development of hydropower in China, and for the much-vaunted new regulatory structure for large dams and reservoirs in the country.

Although the project was suspended in 2004, powerful voices in the Chinese power industry are pushing for the go-ahead to be given. Former Three Gorges chief Lu Youmei said earlier this year that construction should start as soon as possible. Meanwhile, China's Minister of Water Resources, Wang Shucheng, told reporters last week that four less controversial dams could be launched first, while the more contentious ones could be postponed pending further research.

"All the indications we are getting suggest that permission will be given for the first four projects," Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director of the International Rivers Network, told Interfax. "And the other projects will get built eventually."

The Salween, known in China as the Nu (meaning "Angry") River, has become a cause celebre for a number of NGOs and pressure groups in China and overseas. The fate of the region's fragile ecology, as well as a number of isolated ethnic minority communities, is thought to hang in the balance. As required by law, an environmental impact assessment was conducted in the area, but it has been designated a "state secret" because of the implications for downstream countries.

The expansion of hydropower capacity has been an emotive subject in China for some time. In 1992, the proposal to construct the world's highest dam at the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River was greeted with unprecedented levels of opposition at the National People's Congress (NPC), with many of the normally quiescent delegates roused by a decade of fierce popular opposition to a project that many believed would cost the earth, lead to catastrophic environmental changes and force over a million rural people from their homes.

Eventually, the project's chief backer, Premier Li Peng, pushed the project through with 1,767 NPC delegates in favor and 177 voting against and 644 abstaining. Since construction got underway in 1994, legions of seismological, engineering, environmental, biological, meteorological, archaeological and even military experts have been employed by the project to ensure that the construction of the dam went smoothly and the direst predictions of disaster did not come to pass. By May this year, the main construction on the 185-m dam will have been completed, and all 26 turbines will be generating power by 2008, a year ahead of schedule. The occasional embezzlement of funds, the fate of over a million migrants, the costs of pollution in the Yangtze and the erosion of the river's frail banks have been among some of the major challenges faced by the constructors. By now, they say that despite one or two setbacks, the challenges have all been overcome.

But it has not just been the Three Gorges and the Yangtze River. One expert, Chen Guojie of the China Academy of Sciences, has compared China's "hydropower fever" to the rampant construction of ramshackle iron smelters during the Great Leap Forward, and he told Interfax that the problem is not merely confined to the damp and fertile southwest. Developers have been racing to take over the rivers of Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Yunnan in what has been described by critics as a new "enclosure" movement, but even in the achingly arid northwest, where the trickle of the Yellow River provides the only life support for thousands of poor villages, the local authorities are still approving plans to construct several massive hydroelectric plants, including what will become the river's largest at the Laxiwa Gorge in Qinghai Province. Remote Tibet is next on the list, with the virgin Brahmaputra thought to be capable of supporting as much as 100,000 MW in capacity.

Reservoirs have been impounded on the Yangtze River and most of its tributaries, on the Mekong in the semi-tropical border areas of Yunnan, and as well as the Salween, controversial plans are also underway to construct a hydropower project at the Tiger Leaping Gorge in northern Yunnan.

Despite the opposition, Beijing insists that the "trade-offs" are necessary, and that a system is already in place to protect the rights of the thousands who have found themselves dispossessed and impoverished during the course of development. Senior officials say that they are learning how to better ensure the interests of local people and how to protect the fragile ecosystems in the region. They point to groundbreaking legislation by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) to guarantee that those interests are taken into account.

Indeed, fourteen years after the Three Gorges Project was first approved, China's leadership used the latest NPC session to insist that a sea-change had taken place in China's economic development model. The latest Five-Year Plan was said to mark the switch from the "first get rich" era to a more sustainable, measured and environmentally-friendly age. Meanwhile, in his opening speech, Li Peng's successor as Premier, Wen Jiabao, called for "a new road to industrialization".

China's potential hydropower capacity is the biggest in the world. A recent government survey put the figure at around 700,000 MW, 400,000 MW of which was deemed commercially viable. The government, still desperate to find the energy to fuel its growth and keen, at the same time, to avoid pumping even more greenhouse emissions into its already polluted atmosphere, has approved a massive new batch of dams and reservoirs along all of its major rivers.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, China already contains 46% of the world's total dams. China, however, hints at western hypocrisy by saying that hydropower in Europe has already reached around 80% of total potential capacity. "Only 20% of China's hydropower has been developed," said Wang Yuan, the head of the Sichuan Energy Bureau, "compared to 60-70% in the US. In Sichuan, only about 10% [of potential capacity] had been developed by the end of 2004."

Officials also point to power shortages, with the problems in Sichuan itself being particularly severe. Developing energy capacity was one of the major elements of the strategy to boost economic growth in western regions. The West-East Power Transmission Project, for instance, concentrated in its first phase on boosting hydropower capacity in the southwest in order to guarantee electricity consumption in the prosperous southeastern coast.

The human impact

Twenty-three million rural people in China have been moved from their land as a result of dam construction and reservoir impoundment, according to official figures released in the middle of last year by the Ministry of Water Resources. Furthermore, said Tang Chuanli of the MWR's Resettlement Bureau, a third of them still had not reached a basic standard of living.

"The global experience with dam construction is that it does not bring development to local communities," said Aviva Imhof, Campaigns Director at the International Rivers Network. Citing experiences at the Three Gorges Dam and the Manwan hydropower station in Yunnan Province, she said that it was "naïve to believe that these dams will bring benefits to local people."

It has been widely acknowledged, even by senior government figures, that the "trade-off" involved in the construction of dams and reservoirs has been less than balanced. State Council secretary Hua Jianmin even suggested last year that the price of hydroelectricity be raised in order to better compensate evicted farmers. Meanwhile, in a recent report by academics attached to the Chinese Communist Party, it was shown that in northwestern China, the communities forced to make way for reservoirs on the upstream of the Yellow River were considerably worse off than before. The report made familiar reading. Thousands of people had been forced to abandon their relatively fertile riverside farms and resettle on lower quality land.

At the Three Gorges, government figures state that more than a million people have been shifted from the banks of the Yangtze to face uncertain prospects in less fertile land further upstream, or, at best, to take up menial jobs in urban regions as far afield as Shanghai. Some experts say that the real figure is much higher than that, and could reach as many as 2 mln once the project is completed and the depth of the reservoir water reaches 175 m in 2008.

Meanwhile, at the Manwan hydropower station in Yunnan Province, thousands of uneducated farmers were left landless and impoverished, forced to try their luck in tenement slums in nearby urban centers with only a lump-sum payment of RMB 3,000 (USD 373) and an annual gratuity of RMB 400 (USD 49.69) to sustain them, according to Chinese media reports.

In 2004, at Pubugou in Sichuan, almost the whole population of Hanyuan County rose against the local government, which stood accused of colluding with a national hydropower giant to minimize compensation payments. It is a common phenomenon, experts say. Chen Guojie of the China Academy of Sciences pointed out that "some officials just work for their own benefit while making the support of poor people an excuse for the construction."

All in all, however, the government says that the majority actually benefit from construction. Without hydropower, say officials, it would be significantly more difficult to develop industry in areas like Xishuangbanna or the Nu River Prefecture in Yunnan Province.

Chen Guojie is skeptical. "Farmlands are flooded by hydropower construction, and farmers get very small amounts of compensation," he said. "But we sometimes find that industry cannot be developed near the construction sites, which make it impossible to raise the living standards of local people."

With many experts are predicting a power surplus after the waves of capacity expansion over the last three years, the World Bank, among others, is predicting major financial losses might hit Chinese power plants in the coming years. If that is the case, hydropower plants might not be capable of operating at full capacity, and their contribution to local communities will be reduced still further.

The environmental impact

An official surnamed Yin with the Yunnan Development and Reform Commission told Interfax that hydropower construction had been improved in recent years, especially after the project approval system was changed last year. The rules made it clear that hydropower plants should not begin construction until they have received the go-ahead from all related government bureaus, including the ministries of Land and Resources and Water Resources, SEPA, and the government institutions responsible for the relocation of migrants.

However, Chen Guojie believes that China’s hydropower development remains chaotic. He also noted that it was not just large-scale projects in western China that caused the most problems.

"We might have thought that most of the problems take place in hydropower construction in western China, but construction in eastern areas is also dissatisfactory," he said. "And the problems are more serious with some small projects, as the local government is focused merely on the economic benefits while neglecting the negative impact on the local environment."

The problems of small hydropower have been especially evident on the Min River in Sichuan, where the rampant growth of unregulated paper mills and smelters, supported by dozens of small hydropower plants, has led to pollution, silt build-ups and water shortages.

According to Chen, many hydropower projects have been set up without regard to the environmental consequences, leading to serious ecological damage. "When the water flow is cut by the construction of dams, species of fish may go extinct," he said.

"As too many projects have been built on the Yangtze River, the amount of water in some regions will be reduced. Cities like Shanghai, which is located at the mouth of the Yangtze, will be affected by the lower water volume. Reverse flow of seawater may be seen in Shanghai in 10 to 20 years, if the excessive construction goes on," Chen said.

The Yellow River has repeatedly failed to reach the coast in the last three decades as a result of overdevelopment.

"Construction of most dam projects in the country has not been done in line with the Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] Law," said Li Dun, a professor with Qinghua University in Beijing. Li referred to the collusion between the environment appraisal organizations and construction companies. "As a result [of the collusion], improper construction has caused great negative impact to the local environment and the lives of local residents."

Fan Xiao, a hydropower expert based in Sichuan Province, concurs, noting that the people staffing the environmental appraisal bodies are almost invariably ex-hydropower officials.

The recent environment appraisal regulations suggest that the central government is paying more attention to the issue, but it is still hard to predict whether or not Beijing can implement the policies effectively, said Li.

Like most experts, Li said that dam construction could be improved by a more transparent information disclosure system and by allowing the public to join the decision-making process. He suggested that an "accountability system" should be set up for all officials involved.

"Some credit has to be given to the government for recognizing environmental issues," said Aviva Imhof of the International Rivers Network. However, even the proper implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Law might not be enough, she noted. "The [new] laws are an incredible advance for China in terms of requiring hearings and EIAs," she said, but "our experience in other countries is that EIAs don't make much difference."

The reports tend to be "rubber-stamping devices", she said, with the assessors likely to have vested interests in approving the project. "They will never be given another contract [by the hydropower companies] if they reject it."

Fan Xiao also told Interfax that most of the environmental assessment organizations in China were often mere appendages of the hydropower companies.

Ma Jun, an environment expert and the author of China's Water Crisis, said that "China has seen some improvement in dam construction in terms of environmental protection in recent years, but there is still a long way to go," said Ma.

"Improper construction plans have changed the ecological situation of rivers, leading to the submerging of land, the cutting-off of water supplies and even flooding. In some cases, it also destroys scenery, such as the proposed project in Tiger Leaping Gorge," said Ma.

More than 80,000 residents at the Tiger Leaping Gorge could be another factor to take into account for the industrial project, Ma added.

Moreover, the large-scale hydropower development in the southwestern regions in the country has also raised the likelihood of safety problems, with seismic activity and subsidence expected to rise, said Ma.

Construction set to continue

China's hydropower history has been problematic because there has been no good way to stop. The Sanmenxia project is a case in point, with the dam requiring decades of corrective construction and even a complete overhaul in 1969, leading some experts to recommend that it be decommissioned.

The Three Gorges Project Corporation has already started constructing the Xiluodu hydropower station on the Yangtze's upstream, part of a number of dams and hydropower plants that are designed in part to reduce the silt pressures on the Three Gorges Dam. Furthermore, the construction of the Tiger Leaping Gorge Dam is thought by some experts to buttress the flood prevention facilities of the Three Gorges reservoir.

While China's more measured approach to economic growth, outlined in the latest Five-Year Plan, is likely to lead to greater oversight, it is unlikely to slow down the pace of construction.

Fan Xiao, the Sichuan-based geologist, has told Interfax that the current rounds of construction, particularly in the remote Sichuan county of Liangshan, where 40,000 MW of capacity is expected to be completed in the next fifteen years, has nothing to do with power shortages and more to do with economic growth figures and the prestige of local officials.

There is no end in sight, with hydropower viewed by elements of the central government, by the leaders of the country's state-owned power firms, and by local governments, as the quickest and easiest way to jump-start the local economy. As NDRC vice-director Zhang Guobao said last year, despite the opposition, construction will continue.

(WInnie Zhu and Terry Wang contributed to this report)

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