MAC: Mines and Communities

China Vows to Synchronize Environmental Protection with Development

Published by MAC on 2006-06-05

China Vows to Synchronize Environmental Protection with Development


5th June 2006

China is about to change "from emphasizing economic growth but ignoring environmental protection to emphasizing both environmental protection and economic growth," the government said today in a policy paper covering the next five years.

Released by the Information Office of the State Council, China's central government, the paper says that government is "fully aware" that the situation of environmental protection in the country is "grave."

At a press conference releasing releasing the paper in Beijing today, Zhu Guangyao, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said the increased emphasis on environmental protection will affect the approval process for large construction projects.

There will be stricter assessment of the environmental impacts of projects and and projects will be canceled if they either overdevelop land resources or may affect the surrounding environment negatively, he said.

Zhu said the government views its most important environmental task as water pollution control, with a focus on drinking water security.

Some 90 percent of China's cities and 75 percent of its lakes suffer from some degree of water pollution with already limited resources under immense strain, Deputy Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing told an Asian Development Bank sponsored workshop on water in Bejing last September.

Qiu mentioned industry and the needs of a growing economy, unregulated factories dumping toxic pollutants into rivers and lakes and the issue of how to treat wastewater and sanitation as reasons for the contamination. He said arsenic contaminates the groundwater in some regions and there is an increased incidences of schistosomiasis carried by freshwater snails in rural areas.

With a population of 1.3 billion, the country is now at a stage of "accelerated industrialization and urbanization," says the paper entitled, "Environmental Protection in China (1996-2005)."

As a result, in some regions, "The discharge of major pollutants has surpassed the sustaining capacity of the environment. Water, land and soil pollution is serious, and pollution caused by solid wastes, motor vehicle emission and not easily degradable organic matter is increasing," the paper states.

Facing the mounting pressure on resources and the environment, the government says it will "change from mainly employing administrative measures in environmental protection to comprehensive use of legal, economic, technical and necessary administrative measures to solve environmental problems."

The government promised to "ensure the safety of the nuclear and radioactive environments." The government had previously announced that it plans to build 39 nuclear power plants over the next 20 years.

Energy consumption per unit of GDP in the 11th Five-Year Program for Economic and Social Development (2006-2010) will decline by 20 percent compared with the end of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, 2000-2005, the paper says.

Over the next five year, the government says the total amount of major pollutants discharged will be reduced by 10 percent, and forest coverage will be raised from 18.2 percent, about 175 million hectares, to 20 percent of the country's land area.

The policy paper says the government will make "greater efforts to control pollution of key drainage areas, rivers, cities and offshore sea areas."

Premier Wen Jiabao said in April at a national environmental protection conference that environmental protection will become part of the assessment system of economic and social development and the performance of officials.

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