China faces 'mounting ecological problems'

0 CommentsPrint E-mail shanghai Daily, March 13, 2011
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Pollution in China remains very serious as the country's rapid economic growth brings new environmental problems, with nearly 1,000 contamination emergencies in the last five years, a top environment official said in Beijing yesterday.

Vice Environment Minister Zhang Lijun said China has made progress on environmental protection, but acknowledged that its double-digit economic growth over the past decade has had a negative impact on the environment.

"Our rapid economic development has continuously brought our country new environmental problems, particularly dangerous chemicals, electronic waste and so on. These environmental pollutants bring new problems and impact human health," Zhang told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

He said emissions of traditional pollutants remain high and some areas have failed to meet government targets.

China has pledged to continue reducing emissions this year of three key air pollutants - ammonia nitrogen, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. It has also promised to bring down demand for chemical oxygen -- a measure of water pollution - by 1.5 percent from 2010 levels.

In the last five years, there were 912 "environmental emergencies," Zhang said. Some high-profile emergencies involved mass heavy metal contamination, with thousands of children affected by lead poisoning in several provinces in 2009 and 2010 because they lived near metal smelters or battery factories.

Other incidents included a diesel fuel leak in the Yellow River, chemical contamination in the northeast Songhua River following a flood, and crude oil leakage off the northeastern coastal city of Dalian in Liaoning Province after a pipeline burst.

The minister noted that anticipated rapid urbanization in the next five years increases the need for China to improve environmental protection and shift to a more sustainable model of economic development from its reliance on energy-intensive industries.

China is focusing on clean energy generation, including solar, hydropower, wind and nuclear, as one way to cut its reliance on coal, which generates three quarters of its electricity and also is used for winter heating. China also hopes the strategy will reduce surging demand for imported oil and gas and boost economic growth and jobs.

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