MAC: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2006-03-14

China Update

14th March 2006

Chinese official warns of looming disaster

Environmental Management News

CHINA'S top environmental official has warned the world's most populous country could face disaster if it does not improve its protection of the environment.

More than half of China's 21,000 chemical companies are located near the Yangtze and Yellow rivers – which supply drinking water for tens of million of people – so accidents could have disastrous consequences, the director of the State Environmental Protection Administration said in Beijing, Associated Press reported.

"Facts have proved that prosperity at the expense of the environment is very superficial and weak," Zhou Shengxian told a news conference, the wire service said.

Environmental protection has taken on a new sense of urgency for the Government after a toxic spill along the Songua River in China's northeast shut down the country's seventh largest city, Harbin, and sent pollutants flowing into Russia.

The spill, caused by an explosion at a PetroChina-owned petrochemical plant, released about 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene and nitrobenzene into the river, which provides much of the drinking water to urban communities in northeastern China.

The disaster spelt the end of Zhou's predecessor's career and led to the introduction
of tougher penalties for environmental protection officials who allow or attempt to
cover up the environmental impact of the country's rapid economic growth.

China has grown at a breakneck speed of around 9.5% a year for the past two decades, causing pollution so severe it has sparked riots and health problems.

Chinese researchers, working with NASA and the US Department of Energy, have said that a ninefold increase in fossil fuel emissions over the past 50 years has enveloped China in a permanent haze.

Human pollution, such as particulate emissions, soot and sulphur from power generation, aerosols and vehicle exhausts, have created a fog-like haze over much of the country, reducing the amount of direct sunlight and heat reaching the region.

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