China Pollution Crisis Undermining Growth - Official
HONG KONG - China faces an environmental crisis that threatens to wipe out much of the gains of three decades of economic growth, one of China's most outspoken environment officials said in comments published on Saturday.
"China is dangerously near a crisis. The country's enormous environmental debt will have to be paid one way or another," Pan Yue, deputy head of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, said in a letter to the South China Morning Post.
Realistic estimates put environmental damage at 8 to 13 percent of China's national income each year, meaning the cost of pollution off-set almost all of China's economic gains since the late 1970s, he said.
The costs of pollution are being borne by ordinary Chinese.
"Scarcely anyone bothers to consider the environmental costs to -- or rights of -- the country's poor and powerless," Pan said.
A quarter of the population drink substandard water, a third of urbanites breathe badly polluted air and China has a major water pollution incident every two days on average, he added.
The other article today concerns "The Chinese Water Crisis".
Groundwater Polluted in 9 out of 10 Chinese Cities
BEIJING - Underground water reserves in around 9 out of every 10 Chinese cities are polluted or over-exploited, and could take hundreds of years to recover, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
In costal areas overuse of reservoirs is allowing saline seawater to seep into and contaminate freshwater, while underground pressure changes caused by depleted reserves are also causing massive subsidence nationwide.
China has limited water resources, less than one third of the global per capita average and falling. Groundwater is crucial because it provides up to 70 percent of drinking water.
"Groundwater is now contaminated in about 90 percent of the nation's cities," Xinhua quoted Zhang Lijun, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration saying.
But because some groundwater aquifers are up to 20,000 years old -- and many around the capital Beijing hold water from 1,000 years ago -- China cannot afford to put off pollution control.
"If polluted, surface waters can soon clean itself," Xinhua quoted water expert Ma Jun saying. "But groundwater needs an unimaginable length of time to become clean. Prevention is all we can do."