Sulfur dioxide-caused acid rain has cost China an annual economic loss of over 110 billion yuan (US$13.3 billion), and atmospheric pollution results in an annual loss equivalent to two or three percent of China's GDP, according to joint research by the Chinese Institute of Environmental Science and the prestigious Qinghua University.
Environmental experts said the estimate was lower than actual loss because atmospheric pollution's impact on water and its erosive effect on buildings were not calculated in this research.
The territory of China's south and southwest has become the third largest acid rain-prone region in the world after northern Europe and North America, according to experts. In this region, 61.8 percent of cities have suffered from acid rain and acid rain-hit areas accounted for 30 percent of the whole Chinese territory.
According to officials of the State Environmental Protection Administration, China's sulfur dioxide emission has greatly exceeded its environmental capacity. In 338 cities put under monitoring for atmospheric quality, 63.5 percent were rated as at medium and serious levels of atmospheric pollution.
Experts said that reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by coal-burning power plants is key to controlling acid rain because the research found that chimney discharge of sulfur dioxide by such plants is the major cause of acid rain.
In 2002, sulfur dioxide emissions by coal-burning power plants reached 6.66 million tons, accounting for 34.6 percent of the country's total. And the figure is expected to rise to 12.86 million tons by 2005 if emissions increase at the current rate.
(Xinhua News Agency October 10, 2003)