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From meisenscher@igc.org Wed Jun 7 13:49:33 2000
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 23:43:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: China Bleakly Evaluates Environment
Article: 97779
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

China Bleakly Evaluates Environment

Associated Press, Monday 5 June 2000; 9:20 a.m. EDT

BEIJING From poisoned rivers to choking cities, China bleakly assessed its environment today but promised to do more to reverse severe degradation.

The State Environmental Protection Agency cited persisting environmental deterioration, despite concerted efforts to restrict industrial pollution and reforest hillsides denuded by expanding farming.

In an annual survey, the agency said the air in 137 cities nearly 40 percent of China's total was so foul it exceeded medium-range government targets. Two-thirds of the Yellow River, China's second longest and an artery for grain production in the north, were badly polluted, the report said.

Trying to put a positive spin on a torrent of dismal figures, agency director Xie Zhenhua said the amount of major industrial pollutants had been capped. But he acknowledged the quantity was large, causing serious pollution problems.

We are still in the primary stage for environmental clean-up efforts, Xie said at a news conference.

The assessment, delivered on World Earth Day, continued government efforts to raise environmental awareness after decades of abusive, often ill-conceived policies to speed industrial development and expand grain harvests to feed China's 1.25 billion people.

The country's environmental pollution still remains rather serious and ecological deterioration has not yet been brought under control, Premier Zhu Rongji said in a rare television address Sunday.

Zhu, whose address also was printed in newspapers today, said sandstorms that choked Beijing and other northern cities this year were an alarm for the entire nation. He promised more money for environmental technology and water and soil conservation.

China spent more than $10 billion on pollution control last year, about 1 percent of its $990 billion economy, the environmental protection agency said.

Some future spending would go toward reversing degradation in the west, a region of fragile deserts and grasslands where many of China's poor live. The communist government has made raising incomes there a priority for the five-year economic plan that begins in 2001. It plans to pay farmers to plant trees instead of growing crops and end farming and overgrazing on grasslands.

If we don't pay attention to environmental protection in developing the west, then it's quite possible we'll see the phenomenon of 'first pollute, then clean up, first destroy, then recover,' Xie said. We want to avoid repeating the same mistakes made in the east.

Those mistakes included a lack of sewage treatment plants and well-built garbage dumps, helping to create relatively serious pollution along the eastern coast, especially the East China Sea, the agency said.

Among other findings, its report said the Songhe River and tributaries of the Huai, in two grain-growing regions, had dangerous levels of pollution and acid rain still fell on 30 percent of China despite a clean-up of smokestack industries.

The report was not all bad news: 81 percent of China's 234,218 polluting industries are meeting environmental standards, Dianchi and Chao lakes are being cleaned up, unleaded gas is used exclusively in eight provinces and major cities and 31,200 coal mines were closed down.