Going green, a must for China

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, November 2, 2013
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Poor air quality in the capital of China and the mockery term "Beijing cough" has repeatedly embarrassed the country in the international arena.

In the latest example, American Grammy winner Patti Austin was forced to cancel her performance in the city on Oct. 18 after she suffered an asthma attack, as well as a respiratory infection.

The 63-year-old singer was in Beijing for the JZ Festival. The concert organizer did not say what triggered her illness but many music lovers blamed the poor air quality in the city. The index from Beijing environmental authorities showed the air was "heavily polluted" that day.

Environmental problems, affecting all people indiscriminately, now are common concerns of the Chinese and have triggered serious policy changes.

An important meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will take place in November, focusing on deepening reform in "an all-round way."

Although it remains unknown what decisions will be made at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, people expect concrete moves to ensure sustainable development of the country. Such moves are unlikely to leave out environmental strategies.

Analysts hold that the importance of new reform initiatives could potentially be on par with that of China's economic reform introduced in 1978. After 35 years of reform and opening up, the majority of Chinese people no longer suffer from poverty and hunger. They are expecting the new round of reform can bring clean air and water and safe food.


Since early this year, the country has been under growing pressure to address the causes of air pollution after heavy smog affected more than 1 million square km in east China.

In Beijing, only five days were free of hazardous weather in January, with repeatedly higher-than-normal readings of PM2.5, fine particulate matter that is 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

In June, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in a report that the quality of underground water was rated "poor" or "relatively poor" in 57.3 percent of 198 cities around the country.

The report also showed that the water quality of about 30 percent of major rivers was poor according to the country's surface water standards.

Soil pollution has begun to worry the public since cadmium-contaminated rice in central China's Hunan Province came to light in May. As it is closely related to food safety, the public has asked authorities to reveal soil pollution data, as well as detailed measures on how to handle the problem.

China's top decision makers are aware of these challenges.

President Xi Jinping on May 24 pledged that China will not sacrifice the environment for temporary economic growth, calling for all-round efforts to conserve resources and curb pollution.

Speaking during a study session with members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, he called for establishing a lifelong responsibility mechanism targeting those who take irresponsible decisions that leads to severe environmental consequences.

The government should set and strictly observe an ecological "red line", which requires all regions to optimize, prioritize, restrict or prohibit their industrial development according to their defined nature, he said.


Actions to tackle air pollution have led the government environmental efforts.

A 1.75 trillion-yuan (284.2 billion U.S. dollars) plan was sanctioned by the Chinese government in September to tackle worsening air quality. It is aimed to improve air quality within five years, decrease the number of days reporting heavy pollution and improve air quality in major city clusters.

The government wants to cut the density of inhalable particulate matter by at least 10 percent in major cities nationwide by 2017.

Regions suffering the heaviest pollution are pressed to make the first move, for instance Beijing and its neighbors.

According to environmental authorities, air pollution in Beijing, neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province was heavier than the rest of the country. About 80 percent of smog results from industrial pollution.

In September, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli called for resolute and steady efforts to combat air pollution in heavily-polluted areas surrounding Beijing, at a meeting on the prevention and control of air pollution.

At the meeting, the environment ministry signed an agreement with governments of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong as well as Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, setting goals and responsibilities for air pollution control.

Efforts are expected to reduce PM 2.5 by about 25 percent from the 2012 level in Beijing and its surrounding areas by 2017.

To better monitor air quality, environmental authorities have set up 668 monitoring spots in 114 cities and released the data daily through media and on the Internet. They also planned to pilot an air quality warning system in November.

To curb water pollution, a new decree on urban drainage and sewage treatment, adopted this month, bans businesses in manufacturing, construction, catering and medical care from discharging waste water without a license.

In June, the Ministry of Land and Resources carried out a nationwide soil pollution survey, with samples collected at multiple depths in order to find both the natural condition of the soil and the impact that human activity has had on it.

At the same time, China has published measures to help boost green industries as it looks to increase domestic demand and update its economic structure.

A document issued by the State Council in August set the goal to raise the total output value of environmental protection industries to 4.5 trillion yuan (729.7 billion U.S. dollars) by 2015, or on average a 15-percent yearly increase.

In the document, the State Council also vowed to spur technological innovation, increase consumption demand of green and energy saving products, and boost the services industry related to environmental protection.

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