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Date: Wed, 11 Mar 98 00:40:33 CST
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Pollution and ecological deterioration worsening in China
Article: 29695
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.22588.19980312121703@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** labr.global: 250.0 **/
** Topic: Article on China **
** Written 7:18 AM Mar 6, 1998 by or@earthling.net in cdp:labr.global **

Pollution and ecological deterioration worsening in China

By Zhang Kai, October Review, Vol.25 no.1, 28 February 1998

The destruction and pollution of China's ecological environment has long been an acute problem. Although the State Council published a 20,000-word document on 5 June 1996 entitled Environmental Protection in China, expounding on the Chinese government's state policy of environmental protection and actual practices in this area, the fact remains that the ecological degradation in China continues to aggravate.

On 18 July 1996, the People's Daily editorial congratulated the closing of the Fourth National Environmental Convention and said, Our country's environmental situation is still considerably severe. Environmental pollution emitting from urban centres is still expanding, and spreading over to the countryside. The scope of ecological destruction is also expanding, becoming constraint factors affecting the overall economic and social development. If more effective measures are not taken, our nation's survival and development will be directly affected.

The recent World Bank environmental report pointed out that China's urban pollution tops the world. Of the 20 most air polluted cities in the world, 10 are in China.1

Although laws have been promulgated by the National People's Congress, most cadres pay only lip service to their implementation. The driving force behind the Reform is pursuit of immediate returns of profits, at the expense of other concerns. A People's Daily reporter made the following depiction: In the past and the present, stupid deeds on environmental pollution and ecological destruction have occurred because some cadres, in particular cadres in leadership positions, are only concerned with developing the economy at the expense of the environment. The result is that more losses are incurred and grave consequences are irreversible.2

River and lake pollution is one example. Statistical data made available during the Fourth National Environmental Convention showed that pollution of China's seven river systems is grave. The percentages of undrinkable water of category 4 and 5 in the river basins are respectively 67% for Songhua River and Liao River, 60% for Yellow River, 51% for Huai River, 41% for Hai River, 24% for Yangtze River, and 22% for Pearl River.3

The above figures may not be able to convey the severity of the problem. A writer named Chen Guidi toured 48 cities along the Huai River for 108 days, then wrote a reportage entitled Warning of the Huai River. He said that of the 191 larger tributaries of the Huai River, 80% of the water had turned black and stinky; two-thirds of the river had totally lost any use value.4

The Water Works Bureau had organized a survey team of almost 10,000 persons on a 3-year survey, and concluded that the pollution of China's water resources was extremely serious, with no appropriate control of sewage. Management lagged far behind pollution.5

The source of water pollution comes mostly from the factory wastes dumped into the river. The authorities had closed down almost 1,000 small scale paper and leather factories along the Huai River, but the damage had already been done. In 1996, the State Council ordered the closing down of 15 types of small factories that are highly polluting. In the beginning of 1997, 50,000 factories had been closed down.6

Another serious ecological problem is the abusive logging destroying forests and causing soil erosion and siltation of rivers, which have contributed to more floods and droughts. A researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chen Zhongde, pointed out at a Political Consultation Committee Meeting that there are three major water problems in China. The first one is the lack of water in vast areas, especially in North and North-west China where half the cities lack water, and industrial output value losses due to lack of water amounts to over RMB 100 billion every year. The second one is the flooding which is increasing in frequency. Four major floods had occurred between 1991 and 1996, each time incurring more damages than the previous time. Direct economic loss in 1996 was RMB 200 billion, an increase of almost two times compared to 1991. The third problem is the pollution of water.7

Deputy Minister of the Civil Affairs Ministry, Fan Baojun, said that almost 300 million people in 1996 were affected by floods and droughts. 18 provinces were affected by droughts and 24 provinces affected by floods. In addition are typhoons and earthquakes. The state had allocated disaster funds of RMB 3.75 billion, while domestic and overseas donations amounted to RMB 4.38 billion.8

On New Year Day this year, a new journal China Green Times began publication. 135 Fellows from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering issued a joint appeal to save the Yellow River whose flow has cut off almost every year since 1972. From this appeal one can get a glimpse of the severity of the environmental problem in China today.