Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 1 News List

China pressured World Bank into deleting death toll

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SHANGHAI

Chinese government officials pressed the World Bank into removing estimates of the number of premature deaths linked to pollution in China from a bank report, according to a person involved in drafting the report.

A formal draft of the report, Cost of Pollution in China, was released at a conference in Beijing in March after the deletions. The excised information included statistical models estimating that as many as 750,000 people a year die prematurely in China because of air and water pollution.

The person involved in drafting the report said Chinese authorities had wanted the information removed because they had doubts about the method used to estimate the deaths and because they were worried about the consequences of making the statistics public. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is considered so delicate in China.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the World Bank did not deny that some data had been removed from the draft report at the request of China. But a bank spokeswoman said that the matter was under review and that a final report had not been issued.

"Consistent with the World Bank's approach to this type of joint research project, the findings of the report are being discussed with the government," the bank statement said.

"The conference version of the report did not include some of the issues that are still under discussion," it said.

The disclosure that China had pressed the bank to remove some information was first reported on Tuesday in the Financial Times.

Despite the omissions, the report is still a grave warning about the costs and consequences of the pollution and environmental degradation that have resulted from China's economic boom. Researchers estimated that pollution would cost China as much as 5.8 percent of its GDP.

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