From China Daily : China‘s high economic growth has had an adverse impact in terms of access, volume and quality of water as well as equity, management and investment requirements. While the magnitude of the water quality problem has steadily widened, planning, management and institutional capacities have not improved commensurately, and thus complicated matters further.
Water scarcity and pollution of water sources are two of the most serious problems for China. Pollution has now spread from the coastal region to inland water bodies, affecting both surface water and groundwater. More than 53 billion tons of (untreated or inadequately treated) wastewater is discharged into China’s water bodies every year. And as early as 2006, water in a stretch of more than 25,000 km of rivers failed to meet the quality standards for aquatic life and about 90 percent sections of rivers in and around urban areas were seriously polluted. The World Bank estimates that water scarcity and pollution are costing China about 2.3 percent of GDP – 1.3 percent due to water scarcity and the rest as a direct impact of water pollution.
Water quality is a bigger problem in North China, where shortage of water prevents pollutant discharges from being diluted. In the northern region, about 40 percent of the rivers have the two worst water quality standards: grades V and VI. This means water is so highly polluted that it is not only unsafe to drink (a serious health issue in itself), but also very difficult and expensive to treat.
Pollution is a serious problem in rural areas, too. Ministry of Water Resources data show that more than 300 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. While in terms of money the cost is a staggering 66 billion yuan ($10.72 billlion), the main cost is in terms of human life as diseases like diarrhoea, cholera and cancer continue to afflict people.
Although the impact of water pollution on health is very serious, it cannot be quantified because of lack of reliable data both on the pollutants and the households that use poor quality water.
Water pollution is also harming China’s south-to-north water transfer project. Along the “East Route”, for example, industrial pollution has affected many of the poorer areas of northern Jiangsu and western Shandong provinces, delaying the construction of the project. Speaking at a forum in September 2000, Zhu Rongji, then premier, said the initial stage of the project should follow the principle, “first save water, then transfer it; first clean up pollution, then let the water flow; first protect the environment, then use water”. Unfortunately, more than a decade later, pollution problems along the East Route have still not been fully solved.
In addition, industrial accidents and illegal dumping of wastes often worsen the quality of water in rivers and lakes. Such incidents include the Songhua River toxic chemical spill in 2005, the algae bloom in Taihu Lake which polluted the source of drinking water for people of the surrounding areas in 2007 and the dumping of more than 13,000 pig carcasses in the Huangpu River earlier this year.
The government is aware of the challenges and the public is worried about the associated health and environmental costs of water pollution. Water pollution is a monumental problem today because relevant officials ignored it over the years. And it will not be easy to solve it in the short term.
Pollution, aggravated by urbanization and industrialization, has intensified water scarcity in China, and relevant governments have failed to properly implement the existing policies to protect water sources and fight pollution.
But new and more stringent standards on treatment of drinking water represent a good example of how to fight water pollution. According to new regulations, from July 2012, drinking water treatment plants in China have to measure up to 106 quality parameters compared with only 15 previously. If properly implemented, this could significantly improve the quality of drinking in the country.
But the success of the new regulations will depend on multiple issues, which include unifying the fragmented monitoring system; ensuring that there are enough personnel and laboratory facilities to properly test all the 106 parameters; guaranteeing reliable collection, analysis and interpretation of data; making sure a well-oiled infrastructure is in place to supply safe drinking water; and ascertaining that officials in charge of plants not complying with all the norms are punished.
China and its people deserve the fruits of fast economic growth. But water, air and other environmental problems, if not solved, could undermine their future course of development.
Cecilia Tortajada is the co-founder and president of the Third World Centre for Water Management and former president of the International Water Resources Association. Asit K. Biswas is distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and co-founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management.
- Data for China’s groundwater pollution seven years out of date (wantchinatimes.com)
- Heathcote: Record water pollution in Raccoon reminds us of urgent need for clean water action (iaenvironment.wordpress.com)
- Week 14: Trail of Waste (janiceboswell36.wordpress.com)
- Humanity’s Thirsty Future: Searching for Solutions. ~ Maria Ivanova (elephantjournal.com)
- Sewage mixes with drinking water (thehindu.com)
The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington, said air pollution posed the fourth largest threat to the health of Chinese people, behind dietary risks, high blood pressure and smoking.
Air pollution is a fact of life in cities such as Beijing, where many people wear breathing masks when travelling outdoors to guard against “PM2.5 particles” – tiny pollutants that can go deep into the lungs and cause cancer, bronchitis and asthma.
- POLLUTION: Why is UK only now waking up to this public health crisis? (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Exposure to Air Pollution after a Heart Attack (pollutionfree.wordpress.com)
- Canada one-ups the US by launching new startup visa on an important day (qz.com)
- National › Air pollution turns skies gray over Kanto region (japantoday.com)
- Air Pollution Linked to 1.2M Premature Deaths in China (latinospost.com)
- AIR POLLUTION: More bad news for pregnant women (pe.com)
On Saturday, Beijing experienced its worst pollution reading since the air quality monitor on was installed in the US embassy in 2008. Until this year, Chinese authorities have underplayed the country’s spells of noxious atmospheric pollution. This weekend, however, Beijing’s local government issued an alert, warning vulnerable people to stay indoors. The wave of pollution peaked on Saturday and by Monday remained hazardous. It is expected to last until Tuesday
- Beijing pollution at hazard level (bbc.co.uk)
- Beijing’s off-the-charts pollution brings health warnings (cbc.ca)
- Top tip if you’re going out in Beijing: don’t breathe (guardian.co.uk)
- SMOG FILLS BEIJING:Rapid Construction Brings Sky-High Pollution Levels (foxnews.com)
- Beijing air pollution exceeds danger level (radionz.co.nz)
- China’s air pollution goes off the charts (thetimes.co.uk)
- In pictures: Beijing pollution (bbc.co.uk)
Is China really leading the way in respect to its air pollution? Comments below or at twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature
China has set a goal of reducing its major pollutant emissions by more than 30 to 40percent by 2015 in its latest 12th Five-Year Plan (2010-2015) for environment protection, according to a Wednesday report in the People’s Daily newspaper.
Compared with the 11th five-year plan, more indicators, greater pressure, stricter requirements and much higher investment needs are featured in China’s latest environmental protection outline,issued by the State Council,or China’s Cabinet, an unnamed official with the Ministry ofEnvironmental Protection said in the report.
The outline specifies 7 major indicators, with ammonia nitrogen and nitric oxide added as two new indicators, the official said. The plan calls for ammonia nitrogen and nitric oxide emissions to becut by 10 percent by 2015, while chemical oxygen demand (COD) and sulfur dioxide emissionsshould drop by 8 percent, the report said.
COD and sulfur dioxide emissions dropped by 12.45 percent and 14.29 percent, respectively, from2005 to 2010.
The five-year outline also calls for an investment of 3.4 trillion yuan ($539 billion) in environmental protection efforts, or 1.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product during the period, theofficial was quoted as saying.
Eight major projects, including reducing major pollutant emissions and resolving environmental problems that affect people’s health, will require a investment of nearly 1.5 trillion yuan, the officialsaid.
Increasing the number of pollution control indicators, expanding pollution control regions and reinforcing restrictions on total pollution volume in large industries will be effective ways to reducemajor pollutant emissions, the official said in the report.
He said the number of major cities covered by China’s air quality index system has expanded from113 to 333, with stricter assessment standards established as well.
On Saturday, Beijing‘s environmental authority began to use the PM2.5 air quality measurement standard to provide more precise air quality monitoring results.
The official said the measurement standard will also be adopted in all major areas of the country,including the Yangtze River Delta, Zhujiang River Delta and the neighboring cities of Chengdu andChongqing for better prevention and control of air pollution.
The outline also includes nuclear waste, heavy metals and dangerous chemicals as materials that should be focused on in terms of eliminating environmental risks, the official said.
The outline states that local governments should shoulder most of the responsibilities in financing and implementing the five-year plan, with midterm and final evaluations to be conducted in 2013and 2015, respectively, the report said.
Evaluation results will be taken into account when assessing the overall work of local governments, according to the report.
- Pollution Update : Air measurement alone won’t fix Beijing’s air (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Pollution : Industries top cause in China (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Pollution Update : Good news – Two provinces partner up in river protection (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- India’s Air the World’s Unhealthiest, Study Says (india.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Pollution Update : Weather debate shrouded in fog (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Pollution Update : Dirty air costs Europe billions (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Pollution Update 3: Chinese executives threatened water supply…. and may pay the consequences (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China quietly shelves new diesel emission standards | Jonathan Watts (guardian.co.uk)
- Pollution Update : Cadmium pollution controlled in South China river (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Investigate Your Indoor Air Quality (everydayhealth.com)
Anhui and Zhejiang have launched an ecological compensation initiative that is the firstwater protection program jointly begun by these provinces. China Daily reports on some good news initiative.
Comment below or at https://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature
The neighboring provinces launched a trial project on Sunday that monitors the water quality of theXin’an River, which originates in Huangshan, Anhui, and runs into Zhejiang’s Qiandao Lake, themain source of drinking water for Zhejiang province and a strategic reserve reservoir for theYangtze River Delta.
This is the first time such a program has been put into operation, according to Lie Weiping, headof the bureau for protection of the Xin’an River.
“If the water offered by upper Anhui has a quality higher than the basic standard, Zhejiang shouldcompensate Anhui, and Anhui should pay compensation to Zhejiang if the water quality is lowerthan the standard,” Lie said.
Huangshan and other places in Anhui hesitated to accept new industries in order to protect theenvironment along the Xin’an River, paying a heavy price in terms of slow development withdelayed industrialization and urbanization.
In recent years, Huangshan denied operating permits to more than 40 companies whose investments totaled over 4 billion yuan ($632 million), and it permanently closed polluting factoriesengaged in paper-making and cement production, according to a report released last year by acommittee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body.
Nearly 30 percent of China’s territory is made up of basins of big rivers, which traverse many administrative regions.
Huangshan Mayor Song Guoquan said the mutual compensation mechanism will not only ensurewater quality for the lower regions, but also ease the funding scarcity of the upper province andalleviate the contradiction between economic and social development and environmental protection.
The compensation funds were set up by Anhui and Zhejiang provinces and the central government.
With the 50 million yuan startup fund provided by the central government, the local government ofHuangshan will treat industrial pollution at its sources, improve efforts to clean major water coursesand protect the environment in major villages and towns, said Lu Haining, vice-director of the Huangshan environmental protection bureau.
By 2015, Huangshan will invest more than 40 billion yuan in 521 projects to clean the Xin’an Riverbasin, Lu said.
The Huangshan environmental protection official added that the compensation mechanism haslimitations. “The compensation should not only be directed at pollution treatment costs. It shouldalso cover the cost of the developmental opportunities lost (by the upper province) in the process ofprotecting the environment,” said Lu. “That’s ecological compensation in its true sense.”
- Pollution Update : China’s urban areas lax on reporting (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Two natural landmarks lure hikers in China (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Centuries-old charm endures in Chinese villages (seattletimes.nwsource.com)