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Garbage Fees a Good Step
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The country will start collecting fees nationwide for treating garbage and wastewater in the interest of environmental protection. The decision at a conference of the State Development and Reform Commission was announced on Monday.

Such fees are now collected only in major cities. And even in these cities, only 55 percent of the sewage discharged is treated. Most of China's 600 cities do not have sewage disposal plants and they do not collect such fees. At the same time, the pollution of more than 70 percent of the country's rivers and 90 percent of underground water in most parts of the country has created an urgent need to treat sewage and solid waste.

With more rural residents swarming into urban areas in the process of urbanization, the sewage and solid waste discharged are putting increasingly greater strain on the environment. This in turn affects residents' quality of life.

The amount of solid waste in cities totaled 155 million tons in 2005. Only 14 percent was treated in an environmentally friendly manner. The discharged sewage reached 71.7 billion tons for the year, two-thirds of which was directly discharged into waterways or underground.

The situation is so grave that efforts must be made to bring the damage under control before such pollution poses a threat to the very existence of both rural and urban life.

It is good news that the central government has put on its agenda the challenge of reducing these pollutants nationwide. But there are many difficulties to overcome before we can make substantial progress.

For example, solid waste must be classified before it can be recycled or burned. Recycling garbage needs cooperation from every resident. Currently, the rate of classified garbage is quite low. Most residents lack both the awareness and the appropriate containers for separating out different categories of refuse.

As far as the fees are concerned, a mechanism needs to be established to make the fees' use transparent. This is not only because residents need to be told how their money is spent but also because informed residents will be more willing to pay the fees.

Making clear the fees' use is a good first step in promoting environmental awareness throughout the country.

(China Daily April 4, 2007)

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