Enviro-China: The Green Guard

I know I’m often a bit cynical of many aspects to this country I call home. So, I’m going to curb that for this post and relay the highlights of Environmental Protection in China (1996-2005)“, a white paper the government recently released outlining their environmental protection/pollution control efforts over the past decade.

(much of this is taken from the Xinhua.net article about the same topic)

  • For three years in a row, the State has launched special environmental protection campaigns to rectify enterprises that have discharged pollutants in violation of the law and to protect people’s health.
  • The campaigns have dealt with over 75,000 environmental law violation cases, and had 16,000 enterprises closed down for having discharged pollutants in violation of the law. More than 10,000 warnings have been issued to environment polluters, obliging them to remedy the problems under government supervision.
  • There are now 3,226 environmental protection administration departments at different levels all over China, with 167,000 people engaging in environmental administration, monitoring, scientific research, publicity and education. There are 3,854 environmental supervision and environmental law enforcement organs with more than 50,000 staff members.
  • Statistics show that the amount of industrial waste water, oxygen for industrial chemicals, industrial sulfur dioxide, industrial smoke and industrial dust discharged in generating one unit of GDP in China in 2004 dropped by 58 percent, 72 percent, 42percent, 55 percent and 39 percent, respectively, from 1995.
  • According to its statistics, the total newly afforested area has reached over 6.67 million hectares every year since 2002. At present, the national forest acreage is 175 million hectares, the forest cover 18.21 percent. [Note: It’s about 33% in the US]
  • By the end of 2005, there were 2,349 nature reserves of various kinds and levels in China, covering 1.5 million square km and taking up about 15 percent of the country’s land territory.
  • By the end of 2004, China had 11,623 enterprises, each with an annual sales income of more than 2 million yuan (250,000 U.S. dollars), engaged in environmental protection businesses, employing a total of 1.595 million workers.
  • There are now more than 1,000 non-governmental environmental organizations in China.

It’s hard, REALLY hard, not to rip this apart with all its ‘figures’ and ‘intentions’ … but in a uncharacteristic turn, I’m going to take it at face value. From the air quality here in Dalian (stated as one of the cleanest cities in China) to the 80,000-some-odd rural protests (largely due to polluted or misclaimed land) there’s no doubt that environmental policy is a big issue these days in China and it’s interesting to see how it’s being handled.

I don’t envy the central Chinese government for the task they’ve before them. There’s this mammoth of a country, developing faster and faster. There’s an industry and economy that has become fat and comfortable in this growth and doesn’t want it to end (despite all natural laws that it must). There’s local government that don’t tend to share a country-spanning view of goodness and non-corruption. This development and flexible moral system has caused the environment to be nearly completely overlooked by those in positions to do anything about it (the rich, and getting-wealthy).

The paper well states, “… since the late 1970s, China’s economy has developed rapidly and continuously. During the process, many environmental problems that have haunted developed countries in different phases of their 100-year-long industrialization have occurred in China all at the same time.

This might be both bane and bonus for the country. Where “industrialized” countries slowly slipped into high pollution and are taking just as long to slip out of it, maybe the ratio will stick with China as well, and they’ll be able to cure as fast as they’ve caused these problems.

I’ve said before that China has the potential for great leaps in the environmental sectors. I hope I’m right.

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