Sunday, November 26, 2006

"China and the Environment" - from bad to worse?

Not a day goes by without more evidence of the serious state of environmental degradation in China.

Here are three recent summaries:

Pollution in China getting worse (November 23rd 2006)

The level of pollution in China is getting worse, AFP reported. A report by the State Environmental Protection Administration, the country's environmental watchdog, said local governments and industries continue to ignore environmental laws in their pursuit for growth. Pollution in rivers and lakes is worsening and air pollution in cities is affecting the health of millions. Booming industries coupled with a lack of emphasis on environmental controls at the local level are mostly to blame, the report noted. "Some district level governments are evaluating only 30 to 40 % of industrial projects before approving them," the administration said. The country produced more than 12 billion tons of industrial waste-water in the first six months of the year, up 2.4% from the same period in 2005.

Study links pollution, rising lung disease (November 17th 2006)

A study of patients in 30 hospitals in six big cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, found that worsening environmental conditions are causing a rise in the incidence of chronic lung diseases, state media reported. Researchers also said increasing numbers of urban youths are suffering from emphysema and chronic bronchitis, diseases normally associated with the elderly. About 9% of sufferers in the study were aged under 40, while 73% of those surveyed with chronic lung disease were male. Around 43 million people in China have chronic lung disease, with about one million of them dying each year.

Now for the good news:

China plans world's largest solar plant (November 22nd 2006)

China said Tuesday it will build the world's largest solar power station in the poor but sunny northwestern province of Gansu, Reuters reported, citing the official Xinhua news agency. The 100 megawatt project in Dunhuang would cost approximately US$766 million and construction would take five years. Xinhua claimed the world's current largest solar power station was a 5mw project in Leipzig, Germany, with 33,500 solar panels. But a solar plant in Arnstein near Wuerzburg in southern Germany has a 12mw capacity, according to its operator S.A.G. Solarstrom, Reuters said. The country is seeking to ease its dependence on coal, which currently accounts for about 70% of its energy consumption.

The figures that still take some thinking about are the estimates of 43 million Chinese with chronic lung disease with a million dying each year.


swatt said...

In reference to the previous Al Gore post you can watch An Inconvenient Truth in it's entirety at

A must see for all those that haven't already. Watch it repeatedly to brush up on your ammunition for those coffee table conversations.


ChinaLawBlog said...

It is bad and it's only going to get worse before it gets better. Places like Beijing and Shanghai are trying, but much of China is still too focused on the economy to really care. I give it 3-5 years before things start to improve overall.

Rob Elliott said...

Thanks for the comments. I think your estimate of 3-5 years is a fair guess. Development will always come first and who are the West to try to stop this (even if they could). We have a number of other posts on this topic in the Archives.

Biopolitical said...

This guy says China is already getting better.

Rob Elliott said...

Thanks for the link. The data does match what one of my PhD students has found, however, they also find an up-tick after 2003. The graphs in the link end in 2002.

2004, 2005 figures would help to identify whether we have started a new upward trend or whether levels are resumed their downward trend.

I expect emissions per unit of output to have fallen with the introduction of new technologies and better management although I expect absolute emissions not be falling.

The other issue is threshold levels - even reductions in emissions (if the original position was high enough) may not prevent serious health effects.