MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China 2004 Pollution Clean-Up Cost Put at US$136 Billion

Published by MAC on 2006-09-08

China 2004 Pollution Clean-Up Cost Put at US$136 Billion

PlanetArk CHINA

8th September 2006

BEIJING - It would cost China about US$136 billion, close to 7 percent of GDP, to clean up all the pollution pumped out in the country just in 2004, the national environmental protection watchdog said on Thursday.

A one-off, direct investment to clean up all the pollution for that year would cost 1.08 trillion yuan (US$135.9 billion), with most of that being put towards water pollution, according to the report on the State Environmental Protection Administration's Web site (www.zhb.gov.cn).

"These are figures that are extremely alarming, and show the environmental situation is very serious," Pan Yue, head of the environment watchdog, said in the report, adding that the real cost of pollution was likely higher. "The numbers show once again that the environmental crisis is an increasingly serious constraint on economic development," the report said.

"Although this type of high consumption, high pollution, high risk development style has had a certain historical use, our economy has now entered a bottleneck period for resources and energy," it said.

The report issued a stark warning that words to clean up China's filthy environment must be followed by action.

But it did not contain an estimate for 2005, nor did it provide any forward-looking predictions.

For years, China's ruling Communist Party has stressed economic expansion at almost any cost, but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has made green development a key theme of his administration, stressing sustainability over all-out growth.

In the latest incident of harm to the environment, more than 350 people -- many of them children -- in the poor, inland province of Gansu were suspected of being poisoned by a nearby lead smelter.

The government worries pollution could stoke social instability, and protests against polluting industries are common across China's countryside, where the environment has all too often been sacrificed in the pursuit of profit.

Thousand of villagers rioted in eastern Zhejiang province last April, forcing the closure of 13 polluting chemical plants. About 50 policemen were injured and four protesters were later jailed.

After two decades of breakneck economic growth, China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, the World Bank says. An estimated 300 million nationwide have no access to clean water.

China calls its promotion of sustainable development "Green GDP", taking into account damage caused by industrial development.

"This marks only the beginning of our efforts to calculate Green GDP," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Pan as saying of the report. "Our formula is still not complete and we have to keep working hard to improve it." (US$1=7.946 Yuan)

Story by Ben Blanchard

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

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