Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Report paints grim picture of China's environment woes

AFP , BEIJING

The degradation of China's environment is reaching a critical point where health and social stability are under threat, China's top government official on the environment said.

"In some places, environmental problems have affected people's health and social stability and damaged our international image," Zhou Shengxian (周生賢) was quoted as saying in yesterday's China Daily.

Industrialization

The rapid industrialization that the country experienced over the past two decades have transformed China into one of the world's most polluted countries, with local governments and industries shunning ecological protection in the pursuit of short-term gains.

Zhou, the head of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), noted half the country's rivers were severely polluted and a third of its territory was damaged by acid rain in an address to the annual meeting of China's top environmental think tank.

Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said China was not doing enough to combat the problem.

It recommended the government spend more on environmental solutions, that local officials be made more accountable and that SEPA be upgraded from an agency to a full government ministry.

The think tank, known as the China Council for International Cooperation of Environment and Development, said that China lagged behind developed countries in spending to protect the environment.

Last year, China spent 838.8 billion yuan (US$104.85 billion), or 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By comparison, developed countries invested more than two percent of GDP, the council said.

However, think tank experts also said the positive role China was playing for the outside world had been neglected.

World's workshop

China has been the workshop of the world for the past two decades, importing raw materials and exporting finished goods, while the pollution generated by production remained in China.

The problems for China were worsening as heavy industry factories moved from Europe, the US and Japan to China, the report said.

"We import the raw materials, send the products abroad and keep the waste and pollution ourselves," said Shen Guofang (沈國放), a think tank expert and a vice president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, according to the report.

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