China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chinese Official Sees Private Role on Environment

BEIJING, June 5 (AP) — China's pollution problems cost the country more than $200 billion a year, a top official said Monday, as he called for better legal protection for grass-roots groups so they could help clean up the environment.

Zhu Guangyao, deputy chief of the State Environmental Protection Agency, said that the importance of private environmental groups in China had lagged behind their role in other countries, and that his agency wanted to play a more important role in developing "legislation to secure their interests and existence in China."

Despite the efforts of half a million environmental officials in his agency and other organizations, China's environmental picture is worsening and "allows for no optimism," Mr. Zhu said, as he released a report that described China's environmental situation as "grave."

"Water, land and soil pollution is serious," the report said. "The Chinese government will mobilize all forces available to solve the pollution problems that are causing serious harm to people's health."

Damage to China's environment is costing the government roughly 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product, the total value of the goods and services produced in the country. The gross domestic product for 2005 was $2.26 trillion. Mr. Zhu said some local officials were reluctant to help — and sometimes even worked against — the central government's environmental protection efforts.

After more than 25 years of breakneck growth, China is in the midst of an environmental crisis that has continued to worsen, as the local authorities have failed to enforce regulations meant to counter severe air and water pollution.

Environmental groups cautioned that the environmental agency did not have the power to create or pass such a law without the support of top leaders, which was far from certain.

"China has not had the political environment" for the private groups to work independently, said Zhu Chunqian, the head of conservation operations at World Wildlife Fund China.

Greenpeace's government and public affairs officer, Yu Jie, said outspoken environmental advocates had risked retaliation, adding that if a group "has legal status, then it can use legal weapons to protect itself."


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