Friday, June 3, 2011

Environment:  China Faces ‘Very Grave' Environmental Situation, Officials Say

In a blunt assessment of the problems facing the world's most populous country, officials from China's Ministry of Environmental Protection delivered their 2010 annual report. They pointed to two major advances: improvements in water and air quality — key goals that the ministry had set for itself to achieve over a five-year period ending last December.

Both targets were met, with pollutants in surface water down 31.9% over the period and sulfur dioxide emissions in cities down 19%.

But officials cautioned that many other problems were serious and scarcely under control.

Founded as an agency 13 years ago, the environmental protection office was upgraded to a ministry in 2007 but has still fought an uphill battle for funds and power. China's government has prioritized growth, worried that unemployment will lead to unrest.
Mr. Li said that over a fifth of the country's land set aside as nature reserves had been illegally developed by companies, often with local government collusion. But he said that the ministry had now deployed a satellite that can detect illegal development and would pressure local governments to stop the work. Failing this, Mr. Li said, the ministry has the power to influence officials' prospects for promotions because environmental compliance is now a part of their performance evaluation.

Independent observers say this is part of a gradual change toward giving the ministry more power.

For more, see China Faces ‘Very Grave' Environmental Situation, Officials Say by Ian Johnson, June 3, 2011 at NYTimes.com.

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