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Acid Rain Damages Giant Buddha Statue

The world's largest sitting Buddha, located in southwest China's Sichuan Province, is suffering visible erosion caused by acid rain after receiving a facelift only four years ago, China Daily reported on Tuesday.

Visitors to the 1,204 year-old Giant Buddha in Leshan City found the UNESCO World Heritage-listed statue to have "many black and gray stains on its face and body," according to the newspaper.

Acid rain affects 80 percent of the province's cities and prefectures, and causes an annual average loss of 11.3 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion), the newspaper said.

A recent survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment found that it caused average annual losses worth 11.3 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) to Sichuan. Of these, 6 billion yuan (US$726 million) were from damage to crops -- critical to the agricultural province's economy.

With the implementation of the western development strategy in the late 1990s, Sichuan has witnessed rapid economic development, but some firms lacking environmental protection facilities have broken the law and discharged waste water, gas and other residues.

Provincial authorities say 73 sections of the rivers Tuojiang, Minjiang, Jialing, Jinsha and Yangtze are monitored. Fifty-two percent have poor water quality. The Tuojiang, a Yangtze tributary, failed to reach the required standards in all monitored sections.

Sichuan has closed and renovated more than 600 major water-polluting firms in recent years, and no longer approves new projects except for ones that treat pollution in areas with a very poor environment. It has recommended such things as the banning of coal as fuel, and a ban on noise.

But the province still has a long way to go in environmental protection, said officials from the Sichuan Provincial Environmental Protection Administration.

Less than 30 percent of waste water is treated in the province. Of the 24 cities whose air quality is monitored, only five meet the required standards. Fourteen cities, including Chengdu, the provincial capital, have been included in the country's acid rain control zone.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily April 19, 2005)

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