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Rural areas facing an environmental crisis
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While some progress has been made in combating pollution in urban areas, China's rural areas are facing an environmental crisis and the government urgently needs to crack down on rural pollution, according to a report in the People's Daily.

The Chinese Environmental Aspect Bulletin says that during 2007 rural areas suffered non-stop ecological degradation caused by both domestic waste and industrial pollution.

China has no national system to monitor the rural environment and protection work depends on the patchy efforts of local governments. The first ever national survey of pollution sources and soil contamination is only now getting under way. Meanwhile the booming economy continues to inflict damage on the rural environment.

As well as locally generated household waste, industrial pollution and waste dumped by tourists, rural areas on the fringes of cities have become dumping grounds for urban waste.

To solve these problems, the paper says environmental protection institutions need to be built in rural areas, local governments must be given clear responsibilities with regard to environmental monitoring and protection. A major campaign of environmental education is also needed, as well as close coordination of urban and rural environmental protection work.

The paper points to some examples of good local practice. In 2007, Chongqing began a pilot scheme to test a joint urban-rural environmental protection scheme. Crackdowns on pollution in some areas have produced positive results by closing down polluting firms. And some local authorities have made efforts to build model projects such as eco-counties.

But more grass roots work needs to be done in rural areas. Starting with the census of national pollution sources and soil contamination, legislation should be backed up with mass campaigns to spread awareness of environmental issues and mobilize the rural population to participate actively in environmental protection measures.

(China.org.cn by Jessica Zhang, September 24, 2008)

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