CHINA POLLUTION : Beijing targets capital’s suburban smog

China is trying to put the environment – and has the political clout to do it – but will it be, like the case of the finless dolphin in previous post too little too late? Let’s be positive hope not… China going green!? China Daily reports


The Beijing municipal government has put the environment at the top of its work agenda this year, launching a campaign to tackle pollution, especially in the suburbs.

According to a plan released on Thursday, the government will make efforts to improve sewage disposal, garbage treatment and air quality, as well as curb illegal construction.


Beijing targets capital's suburban smog

The fog-shrouded buildings are seen in Beijing, capital of China, in this March 17, 2013 file photo. [Photo/Xinhua]



Illegal buildings and land use are major problems in the suburbs, and the campaign will focuson structures built on collectively owned land in old towns and high-end communities, saidWang Wei, deputy director of the city’s urban planning commission.

The government will spend a month curbing growth of illegal construction or land use and thenmake a list of illegal buildings.

From May to July next year, the city will gradually demolish those buildings, Wang said.

Wang Anshun, mayor of Beijing, said government departments and State-owned enterprisesshould take a leading role in demolishing illegal buildings owned by their branches.

To improve water quality from 2013 to 2015, the capital will set up 47 recycled-water plants andupgrade 20 sewage disposal plants, Beijing Water Authority said in a statement.

About 1,290 km of pipeline will be laid or upgraded for sewage disposal, the statement said.

According to the three-year plan released, Beijing will also build five garbage incinerationplants by the end of 2015 to ensure more than 70 percent of the city’s waste can be destroyedby burning.

The city already has two incineration plants. It can incinerate 16,900 metric tons a day, and thenumber will increase to 24,000 tons.

The sewage treatment, garbage incineration and forestry development will cost 100 billion yuan($16.09 billion), said Mayor Wang Anshun.

He said the huge investment called for the reform of the market, which means that thegovernment should lift restrictions and let the private sector participate in the investment.

Fang Li, deputy director of Beijing’s environmental protection bureau, said the government willcontinue to take measures to cut emissions for air quality improvement this year.

The city will continue to control vehicle emissions using the policy that restricts private carsfrom being driven one day a week, based on the final digit of the car license plate, he said onThursday.

Meanwhile, it may consider launching the policy in particular areas and periods to control thenumber of cars on road.

When the air quality is poor, the city will set up an emergency headquarters to resolve theproblem, according to a government statement.


CHINA : Coal ash consumption offers environmental benefits

Photo of a coal-fired power plant in Shuozhou,...
Photo of a coal-fired power plant in Shuozhou, Shanxi, China Français: Centrale au charbon, Shuozhou, Shanxi (Chine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new twist and solution to an old problem? Recycling coal ash into environmentally-friendly building materials is one way China‘s largest coal-producing province of Shanxi is trying to cope with the 120 million tons of toxic dump. CHINA DAILY reports

Lying in the surroundings of Shentou No 2 Power Plant, in Shuozhou city of the province in northern China, a 1.2 square-km landfill of coal ash has taken shape for three decades.

Annually, three million tons of ash leaks from three power plants in the area.

Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, which leaks into the water system and is blown into the air on windy days.

Villagers nearby are worried that the pollution may have damaged land and affected the health of livestock and even humans.

“With even the lightest wind, tiny particles take flight, blotting out the sky like a thick sandstorm of ash,” said Zhang Weipan, an engineer of Shuozhou Pingshuo opencast coal mine.

Faced with long-lasting pollution, the government of Shuozhou city plans to build a landfill into China’s largest coal ash recycling base in an attempt to gradually remove the glacier-like ash dump.

“One source of optimism is that the coal ash leaked by Shuozhou’s three power plants contains alumina and silicon that could be used as raw materials for building new products like bricks and ceramics,” said Liu Yao, an expert with the Shuozhou branch of Shanxi Coal Transportation Co Ltd.

Close to the site, the Shuozhou municipal government is building an industrial zone with an area of 1,977 acres to recycle five million tons of coal ash annually, with an investment of 12 billion yuan ($1.9 billion).

The zone has attracted nine enterprises since April 2011.

With 16 ongoing projects and 13 products to be launched to market by the end of the year, the total consumption capacity of ash is expected to reach 2.4 million tons, said Li Zhengyin, the city’s mayor.

Li said the use of recycled ash will help the industry become a pillar sector of the city, accounting for 5 percent of overall GDP.

Hu Yong, CEO of Shuozhou Runzhen Technology Co Ltd, said he started recycling ash into bricks in 2005.

A square meter of recycled floor manufactured by the company uses 12 kg of coal ash. The company’s annual output last year reached 400,000 square meters, which used 1.5 million tons of coal ash, about one seventh of the city’s annual ash emission.

However, the path ahead is not smooth.

China’s coal production is expected to hit 3.7 billion tons this year, up 3.5 percent from 2011, according to China Coal Industry Association.

The amount of coal ash generated from coal-fired power plants will rise.

While in Shuozhou, a major electricity supplier to Beijing, the installed capacity of power plants will reach 20 million kilowatts by the end of 2015, according to the mayor.

The emissions of coal ash will drastically increase to 18 million tons in 2015, while the processing speed lags far behind.

The utilization of the waste requires much more financial and technological investment, said Wang Jiwei, secretary of China Association of Resource Utilization

The economic benefits might not be as much as the environmental ones, but it will pay off in the long run, added Wang.

Mandatory Irish road sign for wild animals.
Mandatory Irish road sign for wild animals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Wildlife - Animal - Dall Sheep in Denali Natio...
Wildlife – Animal – Dall Sheep in Denali National Park (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Animal rights campaigners are calling on the Chinese people to lose their taste for wild animal meat, as the government carries out a major crackdown on poaching nationwide. CHINA DAILY reports

Wild Animals Warning sign on National Highwaya
Wild Animals Warning sign on National Highwaya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Thursday, the China Wildlife Conservation Association signed a public appeal urging people to refuse to put wild animal meat on dining tables, saying the increasing consumption is at the root of poaching and illegal trading.

According to a 1999 survey of 20,000 people by the State Forestry Administration and China Wildlife Conservation Association, nearly half of 1,381 restaurants across the country had wild animal meat on the menu, and 46 percent of respondents said they had eaten wild game.

The four-month poll was carried out in 21 large and medium-size cities, where people generally have more money to spend on such delicacies.

“Although years have passed, such strong demand for eating wild animals has not changed or faded in China,” said Zhao Shengli, deputy secretary-general of the association. “In fact, even more people, especially rich people, have started to eat them in recent years.”

The group’s appeal to the public comes after China Central Television reported that restaurants in hilly Zixi county, Jiangxi province, had State-protected wild animals on their menus, including macaques, badger pigs, Chinese bamboo rats and wild geese.

Footage from CCTV on Tuesday showed monkeys were killed illegally on mountains and sold at farmers markets, or gruesomely slaughtered and served in several restaurants.

Monkey meat can sell for 560 yuan ($90) per kg, while monkey brain can fetch 1,600 yuan per kg, according to the report.

On Wednesday, two men were detained, and authorities said more arrests were possible as the investigation continues. Four officials, including the county’s forestry bureau chief, have been sacked.

On the same day, authorities in Guangdong province said more than 1,300 restaurants and hotels and 102 people involved in poaching, transporting and trading migrant birds and other wild animals have been punished.

A series of strict campaigns against poaching and trading in endangered wild animals will be launched across the country in the coming days, Yan Xun, chief engineer of the department of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management of the State Forestry Administration, was quoted as saying by CCTV on Thursday.

China is abundant in wildlife. More than 10 percent of the world’s wild vertebrate species – more than 6,000 species – are found in China, according to the State Forestry Administration.

“But people in some parts of China maintain the centuries-old custom of eating exotic wildlife as a delicacy, which is a major reason for the severely declining number of wild animals now,” said Feng Zuojian, a researcher at the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Chinese Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Refusing to eat wild animals is one of the signs of civilization. In many foreign countries, especially in Europe, there are no restaurants that serve wild animals,” he said.

Under the Chinese Criminal Law, those who illegally catch or kill endangered wildlife species can be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Animal rights campaigners are urging authorities to tighten supervision – and make punishments stronger – to eliminate poaching and illegal sales of wild animals.

Will China run out of water by 2030?

Will China run out of water by 2030? 

China‘s ambitions are high – China Daily reports. By 2020, it aims to double its 2010 GDP and per capita income of urban and rural residents both. China’s economic track record has been impressive. It now has a middle class population of more than 300 million and has experienced the fastest ever economic growth over the past 30 years. But it may not be able to maintain this momentum unless it overcomes one of its core policy challenges: water, both in terms of quantity and quality.

Logo of Centre on Asia and Globalisation
Logo of Centre on Asia and Globalisation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Economic growth is no rocket science. Abundant supply of cheap labor and energy powers a country’s industrialization. Without affordable energy, however, energy-intensive businesses are driven out of the market and many factories are unable to produce goods at competitive prices. This link between economic growth and energy – the energy-growth-nexus – is widely acknowledged. But most analysts and policymakers today ignore what really an energy industry is powered by: abundant and sustainable supply of water.

Indeed, China’s economy runs on water. Water is needed at one stage or another to generate energy. China’s industry is the second largest water consumer – it consumes 139 billion cubic meters of water a year – with only the agriculture sector consuming more. And by 2030, Chinese industry‘s water consumption is projected to increase to 265 million cubic meters.

Energy generating plants in China are the largest industrial users of water, consuming about 42 million cubic meters of water a year. Since China’s installed energy capacity is projected to double by 2020, energy producers’ share of water will continue to rise. This growing demand will not be matched by the availability of water. For example, the Water Resources Group, projects that if China carries on with business as usual, its demand for water will outstrip supply by 199 billion cubic meters.

China is running out of water, which could soon curb its growth unless immediate countermeasures are taken.

What exacerbates this shortage is the vicious circle of energy and water – if power-generating plants need water then water treatment and supply facilities need energy. The Third World Centre for Water Management estimates that the water sector consumes as much as 25 percent of the electricity generated globally. Though China’s water sector is not yet among the country’s most energy-intensive industries, it will gradually become so with new hubs of growth emerging in the water-scare western region and the increasing demand for wastewater treatment. Already, about 52 percent of China’s economic output comes from water-scarce regions.

Unfortunately, China does not have much water to begin with. It is home to almost 20 percent of the world’s population but has only 7 percent of its freshwater reserves. Water is one of its scarcest resources. And it is extremely inefficient in the use of water and a world leader in water pollution.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, which meets more than 70 percent of its energy needs. The country produced 3.8 billion tons of coal in 2011 – almost half of the world’s total. Coal may be considered a cheap source of energy, but the air and water pollution caused by the mining and use of the mineral is devastating. According to Greenpeace, 2.5 tons of water is polluted for each ton of coal produced. About 25 percent of all wastewater in China comes from washing coal, and it contains large amounts of chemicals and heavy metals that are almost impossible to recycle. All this makes the true cost of coal in China as high as 1.7 trillion yuan ($272.82 billion), or about 7 percent of its GDP.

So what can the country do to combat these problems? As a first step toward tackling water pollution, China needs to rapidly reduce its reliance on coal. A more ecological alternative could be shale gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, China has the world’s largest shale gas reserves – up to 36.1 trillion cubic meters . And China does want to increase its shale gas production to 6.5 billion cubic meters by 2015.

Natural gas emits 45 percent less CO2 per unit of energy produced compared to coal. And though hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to exploit shale gas, requires about 4.5 million gallons of water per well, it is equal to what a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant consumes in just 10 hours. Fracturing, nevertheless, could contaminate groundwater. No wonder, France banned hydraulic fracturing in 2011. The use of shale gas, therefore, may not result in cleaner water in China.

If China takes the water-energy-growth nexus into account, it would most certainly seek a more balanced energy mix and not focus solely on exploiting shale gas, for its planned rapid exploitation of shale gas may reduce its CO2 footprint but it will also exacerbate its water shortage.

Admittedly, Chinese policymakers are taking the water problem seriously. But water is still isolated from the country’s energy and growth policies. China aims to reduce its water intensity by 30 percent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period. It has also set new pollution-reduction targets, particularly for the agriculture sector.

The country must adopt a coordinated approach to water, which will gradually price in the external costs of shale gas or coal. Yet there is no sign of China recognizing that water has to be managed cross-sectorally. Its latest plans do say that “water is the source of life, production and ecology”, but it does not have a coordinated policy approach to manage water, energy and economic development holistically, without which it will not be able to fuel its economic growth indefinitely because it will run out of water.

Asit Biswas is distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore, and founder of Third World Centre for Water Management. Julian Kirchherr is a graduate student on public policy and management at the London School of Economics (LSE) and National University of Singapore.


(China Daily 11/29/2012 page9)


WILDLIFE UPDATE : Exotic animal trade thrives in China

A long, yellow-gray snake lay motionless in a glass box. On one side, in a separate container, a hairy, black spider about the size of a chicken egg stalked its lair. On the other, a lizard fidgeted in a sand box.

It was the kind of display ordinarily found at a zoo.

Exotic animal trade thrives in China
A woman kisses a lizard as people gather together to share experiences about cultivating cold-blooded reptiles at Jilin in Jilin province. DING DONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Yet the unusual menagerie was not in a zoo but in a nondescript Beijing store — and all of these exotic creatures were for sale.

On a weekend afternoon, roughly a dozen people crammed into a small, square room in a secluded corner of Guanyuan Pet Market in the capital’s Haidian district. Some were there out of curiosity, others to buy.

“The store owner just told me the lizards are 3,000 yuan ($480) each,” said Li Zhi, a middle school student who had been browsing with a friend. “It’s too expensive. My spider only cost 170 yuan.”

He said he bought the spider — a species called Chilean rose — from an Internet trader. It lives in a glass cage in his living room.

“It’s about 10 cm in diameter now” Li said. “I like spiders. They look cute, they don’t bite unless cornered, and even if I am bitten, it doesn’t matter because they are not poisonous. Having a spider is no big deal.”

Several other stores in the two-floor, underground market also had lizards, scorpions and spiders on display.

Yet, wildlife protection experts have warned that buying an exotic animal without knowledge of how to care for it can be extremely dangerous, not to mention illegal.

“Many wild animals are aggressive by nature and do not make suitable pets,” said Zhang Jinshuo, a zoologist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Even tamed wild animals are likely to attack. They also spread disease.

“And, if they are abandoned or they escape, they pose potential danger to the public,” he added.

The media has been awash with stories about exotic animals on the loose in Chinese cities this year.

Over the summer, a crocodile was spotted in a Beijing public pool and a giant salamander was discovered in another residential complex, while in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, a woman alerted authorities after her Burmese python escaped.

There have been countless tales of snakes and spiders appearing in streets and on subway trains in large cities, such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

“Many wild animals are dangerous,” said a handler at the Beijing Wildlife Protection and Nature Reserve Management Station, who gave his name as Yang. “A snake may look quiet and gentle in a box at a pet market, but that’s because the box is not very hot. When the temperature rises the snake will become very active.

“Even trained handlers like us are sometimes bitten by these animals.”

He said his station is constantly receiving calls about abandoned exotic pets, which they must then find and collect.

“We’ve taken in at least eight monkeys alone this year,” Yang said. “Most were actually sent to us by residents who realized they couldn’t handle them. This puts even more pressure on us because keeping pets isn’t what we are here to do.”

Wild animals require special, controlled environments to survive. For example, he said, snakes need to be kept in tanks set to the right temperature and humidity.

A beastly trade

According to Zhang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, such animals should not be available to shoppers in the first place because the breeding of many exotic animals is outlawed by regulations.

“No individual can breed or sell protected wildlife without permission from the government,” Zhang said, quoting the regulations. “That includes the crocodiles and some turtles commonly seen at pet markets.”

Li Li, who heads the Panther Protection Station for Wild Animals, a nonprofit group in Beijing, said permits are usually only issued to wildlife protection or research institutes, or large, animal reproduction centers. It is “virtually impossible” for an individual to get one, he said.

But as the pet industry continues to boom — Chinese people are expected to spend 7.84 billion yuan on pet care this year, according to market research by Euromonitor — traders are circumventing the law to cater to the demand for exotic species.

As is often the case, the Internet is the main channel for such dodgy dealings.

Traders often target online forums for owners of exotic pets to advertise and sell their animals, including raccoons, slow lorises, foxes, chameleons, poisonous snakes and rare turtles.

A vendor in Beijing’s suburban Daxing district, who gave his name as Wang, was offering crocodiles for sale on a forum hosted by Baidu, a major Chinese search engine. He said the creatures were from a small farm owned by a friend.

A 60-cm-long crocodile costs 900 yuan, he said. “Many people have bought them to slaughter and eat, or just keep as pets.”

He was also offering a type of crocodile native to Malaysia, which is smaller but much more expensive, costing 6,000 yuan each. “It was smuggled (over the border) and there are only a dozen crocodiles of this type in China,” he said.

When asked how safe it was to keep the reptile as a pet, he recommended owners by a 1-meter-high tank and “always throw the food in quickly” as the crocodile can jump very high and will bite fingers.

The manager of an online store run from Beijing, who declined to give his name and would only communicate online through instant messenger, had a rare, large white cobra, which was pictured in a steel cage. He said he had caught it in the wild.

At a pet market near Panjiayuan, in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, a vendor said his lizards are from Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which borders several Central Asia countries. However, he would not disclose the exact source.

Yang at the Beijing Wildlife Protection and Nature Reserve Management Station said he suspects some of the pets they receive from residents were illegally traded.

“Wild animals are more dangerous to keep and are more likely to hurt people and transmit disease,” he said. “We advise residents to report such cases to the police.”

A staff member on the law enforcement and monitoring team at the capital’s landscape and forestry department said the authority is investigating several traders suspected of selling protected animals.

“We are still collecting information,” said the staff member, who declined to give his name. “We’ve received many reports from residents recently, but it’s difficult, as most suspects reveal little information about themselves except their instant messenger number.”

He added that his team conducts regular patrols at pet markets and will punish vendors who are found selling protected wild animals without a permit.

However, experts say ultimately consumers should be educated to avoid breaking the law.

“The government should increase publicity to make people aware that many wild animals are actually not allowed to be traded,” said Wang Yue, spokeswoman for the Beijing Dog Breeders Association.


WILDLIFE UPDATE: China returns artificially bred panda to nature


CHENGDU – China on Thursday sent an artificially bred and trained panda into the wild in the southwest of the country, a move which authorities said marked a new phase for the nation’s panda protection efforts. China Daily reports

Born in the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan province in August 2010, “Taotao” is male and two years old. At 10:13 am Thursday, it walked out of its cage, ran straight toward a bamboo forest in the Lipingzi Nature Reserve in Sichuan’s county of Shimian, and embraced its new life.


China returns artificially bred panda to nature
Artificially bred panda Taotao walks out of its cage to thewild forest at the Lipingzi Nature Reserve in Sichuanprovince, Oct 11, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]


The release of Taotao to nature was the second of China’s such efforts after it set free five-year-old “Xiangxiang” in 2006. However, the first try failed after Xiangxiang died during fights with otherwild pandas for food and territory about a year after release.

Scientists and experts later drew upon from the experience and improved training methods. In June2010, the nation resumed small-scale training programs for pandas before returning them to nature. The new training focused on the panda cub learning from its mother.

“As opposed to Xiangxiang’s captive-bred environment, Taotao has lived and grown in semi-wild conditions since being very little. This means that its fighting capability and survival skills both improved significantly,” said Zhang Hemin, director of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

Before Taotao’s release, it had gone through three rounds of training in preparation for going back to the wild, according to the State Forestry Administration and the Sichuan provincial government,which jointly organized Thursday’s panda release.

Firstly, it was fed and raised by its mother, and learned basics such as climbing from the older animal. Secondly, Taotao withstood mud-rock flows, snow disasters and rainstorms with its mother,all the while improving its basic skills. It learned to fear humans and hide from them. During the third session, Taotao was trained to recognize enemies and its own kind.

“Sending artificially bred pandas back to nature after providing them with training will help them integrate with wild pandas. This will be conducive to improving genetic diversity among wild pandas regionally, increasing the number of wild pandas, and enhancing their survival capabilities,”according to Wu Daifu, Taotao’s feeder.

However, Zhang Hemin worried whether Taotao will pull through the difficulties in inevitable competitions with wild pandas and avoiding natural enemies such as bears, leopards and wolves.

“Even though we have used new training methods, Taotao is only the second such panda released to nature, and we remain at the experimental stage,” said Zhang.

Experts said the returning of artificially bred pandas to the wild shows that China has entered a new stage in its panda protection efforts. So far, the country has established 64 nature reserves for pandas, facilities which have offered effective protection to more than 70 percent of its wild pandas.

The number of wild pandas in China has increased to more than 1,600. Meanwhile, the number of captive-bred pandas stands at 342, according to Yin Hong, vice chief of the State Forestry Administration.


‘Green’ can be ‘great’ for Chinese economy’ : World Bank

English: The skyline of Shanghai, China.
English: The skyline of Shanghai, China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Environmental “green” growth will not necessarily result in slow growth for the Chinese economy, said Pamela Cox, regional vice-president for World Bank East Asia and Pacific. China Daily reports

English: A world map of countries by gross dom...
English: A world map of countries by gross domestic product (nominal) for the year 2010 according to IMF. Français : Carte du produit intérieur brut des pays de la planète (nominal) pour l’année 2010. Português: Mapa do produto interno bruto nominal dos países para o ano de 2010 segundo o FMI. > US$ 1 000 billions 999 – 200 billions 199 – 10 billions No data (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an interview with China Daily, she said well-laid urbanization plans can prove essential to sound development.

Officials in the world’s second largest economy seem to have reached a crossroads and now must decide if they are willing to sacrifice economic growth to ensure energy is used more efficiently.

But, “just because (development is) green doesn’t mean it cannot be fast,” Cox said.

“If you look at some of the technologies China is currently producing, for example, solar panels or biogas projects that are producing energy at lower costs for residents, it is smart economics,” she said on Tuesday.

The demand for energy, and the price of it, is increasing throughout the world, she added. Amid those circumstances, technology that uses energy more efficiently will not only help China spend less on energy but also give it business and export opportunities.

“As China moves out of lower-end export goods, such as clothes and shoes, the country can now export more technologically advanced goods,” Cox said.

“Meanwhile, the lower energy costs paid by citizens can also free up new purchasing power for more consumer goods. So, actually, green growth can be great growth.

“People tend to think that green growth is no growth because green means trying to save as much energy as possible. But actually, what you are trying to do is to use the energy in a smarter way.”

In April, the World Bank forecast that China’s economy will grow by 8.2 percent this year. Many institutional analysts, in contrast, made gloomier predictions about the economy after they had seen GDP grow at a rate of 7.6 percent in the second quarter, a three-year low.

Various investment projects are now being planned or are in progress as a way to accelerate the slowing economy.

Many experts say they doubt those projects will detract from the country’s commitment to achieve growth in a more efficient manner.

The goals, as stated in the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), call for reducing the country’s carbon intensity, or its emissions of carbon for each unit of its GDP, by 17 percent by the end of 2015.

In a recent report, the World Bank said urbanization will help China meet that goal.

“Cities are politically, financially, and administratively organized to act quickly and to realize the national policy goals, as they have been driving the economic transformation in the last three decades,” the report said.

“The urban areas can be more innovative, more creative and, potentially, more efficient in terms of resources use, but only if you have done it well,” Cox said.

“Few cities are planned and operated in a perfect way. A lot of cities in the world have to adapt to new progress in a changing economy and world. The key is to start with an integrated approach.”

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