The Chinese government has unveiled a plan to combat
environmental degradation in the country over the next 15 years,
with pollution control high on the agenda.
"The move is aimed at protecting the long-term interests of
China and its people, and leaving a good living and development
space for future generations," the State Council said.
The plan stipulates that by 2010, the environmental quality of
heavily polluted regions and cities should be improved and the
trend of environmental degradation checked.
And up to 2020, significant improvements to the country's
general environmental quality and ecological status should have
To realize the goal, the Chinese government has outlined seven
major tasks, with five focused on air, water and soil pollution
The plan comes in the wake of the Songhua River pollution
incident in November last year, an event that stunned the nation
and sounded alarm bells about the country's worsening
Official statistics indicate that most of the major rivers in
the country are polluted and over one-third of China's land mass
has been ravaged by acid rain. Most city residents breathe dirty
air, and more than 300 million rural residents do not have access
to clean water.
The government acknowledged that despite its efforts to keep a
check on pollution over the years, the situation is "still very
Major problems cited include acid rain, polluted soil, organic
pollutants, the potential risks posed by nuclear facilities, and a
decline of biodiversity.
In the next 15 years, the fight against pollution will become
even more arduous, as the nation's economy is expected to quadruple
during this time.
"The worst is yet to come, judging by the increased frequency of
serious pollution incidents," according to Zhou Shengxian, director
of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
"The issue of pollution has become a 'blasting fuse' of social
instability," he told Xinhua, citing the many cases of mass unrest
because of pollution.
But this is also China's golden opportunity to tackle its
environmental issues, he said.
"The central government has paid an unprecedented amount of
attention to the issue, which is important political support for
pollution control efforts," he said.
Meanwhile, the plan also suggests the establishment of a
long-term mechanism for environmental protection, including
drafting laws on soil and chemical pollution as well as
compensation for environmental damage.
It also demands the strict enforcement of environment laws and
severe punishment for those responsible for pollution, including
The plan also requires governmental departments and localities
to formulate preferential economic policies in relation to
environmental protection, particularly in the areas of tax
collection, credit, trade, land use and government purchases.
"The most urgent task for us is to check water pollution to
ensure the safety of drinking water, and we must win the battle,"
(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2006)