Consequences of China’s failure to implement its policies and enforce its laws to protect the land, water, and air: 1999-2012 overview

Walter Parham, Ph.D., April, 2012

This summary illustrates environmental problems affecting China’s agricultural lands.  Much of the information dates from the late 1999 to early 2012 web editions of the South China Morning Post (SCMP), a Hong Kong, English-language newspaper.  The 109 year-old newspaper remains outside the direct control of the Beijing government whereas publications of Xinhua and China Daily do not.  Much of the SCMP information and data cited herein are attributed to high-level Chinese government officials. Many of these sources have their own English-language web sites.  My field experience in South China, Hong Kong, and Macau, my association with many Chinese scientists and government officials, and my reading of related literature provide support to the summary’s dated entries at the end. 

For centuries, China’s large population has had adverse effects on its renewable resources. The information gathered here from the last ten years or so, however, provides a glimpse of some of China’s severe new problems caused mainly by its rapid economic development.  These include (a) loss of arable lands, (b) overuse and pollution of groundwater and surface water, (c) air pollution, and (d) destruction of wildlife and vegetation.  Discussion here focuses mainly on problems (a) through (c).

Clearly these problems are well recognized at the highest levels of China’s government.  The leaders’ public statements, studies and reports show an increasing level of frustration and alarm as the problems worsen.  Even though China has environmental laws, the laws are commonly ignored.  Further, public understanding of how these problems relate to one another is weak.  Conservation is swamped by development.  Chinese researchers already know that allowing these problems to continue damages China’s economy and public health.  China’s “five-year plans” highlight these concerns and even set goals for solving them but with little effect.

The loss of arable land was a prominent concern at the start of the 1999-2012 period of review but the concern for such losses grew further late in the period.  China’s government in 2007 established a “red line” below which its area of arable land would not be allowed to fall, nevertheless losses continue.  Later the government encouraged agricultural companies to lease or buy farmland in foreign countries to raise crops.

The country-wide problem of how to obtain safe drinking water clearly was a continual concern.  Agriculture by 2003 surpassed industry for being China’s greatest polluter.  In addition, groundwater over-pumping produced land-damaging subsidence in 46 cities by 2003.  Subsidence was as great as two meters (six feet) having obvious damaging effects.

Chairman Mao’s idea of building water-diversion canals to bring water from the water-rich south to the water-deficient north gained renewed interest in the early 2000s.  However, toward the end of the period reviewed here with major canals already under construction, some as long as 2500 km (~1500 miles, the distance between Miami FL and Boston, MA), strong criticism of the idea was expressed by academics and ex-government officials.  Concerns include escalating construction costs, corruption and the effects of displacing as many as 345,000 people.  Potentially harmful environmental impacts exist at both ends of the canals.

Air pollution worsened throughout the period as well.  Acidity of the rain became worse, its frequency increased and distribution spread.  Studies show that China’s air pollution is linked to premature deaths and to birth defects.  Where polluting industries in the Pearl River Delta were moved inland to reduce air pollution the move only spread pollution further.  Smog became a common problem in the north and the south as the number of automobiles increased nationwide and the burning of high-sulfur coal continued.   FAO encouraged China to begin to measure 2.5 micron particulate matter in the air because of its adverse health-effects.  China agreed to do so in 2011 but said that it would not release the data until 2016.  Hong Kong’s air pollution has reached its worse level ever.

It seems that little if anything has improved over this review period.  The amount of arable land continues to decline while water and air pollution worsen.  Premier Wen Jiabao in 2003 ordered that illegal development must stop encroaching on farmland.  In 2006 he said that China’s environmental damage is caused by local authorities’ blind pursuit of economic development and lack of adherence to China’s environmental laws and then in 2010 he said that China’s pollution has moved from bad to worse and that pollution is uncontrolled.

Now in 2012, Premier Wen Jiabao’s message to the China’s State Council is that corruption is the greatest threat to the ruling party, and that if not dealt with properly it might completely undermine China’s political foundations.  He adds that he wants to improve government transparency so that the public can closely follow what officials do or don’t do in their jobs.  His unheeded orders and pleadings strongly suggest that the continued damage to China’s agricultural lands and the environment cannot be stopped easily because the problem is ingrained in a culture of corruption, fraud, secrecy, environmental disregard, and inaction at all levels of government.  The tight working relationships between business and government nationwide, the scarcity of citizen input into land-use decision making, perpetuate China’s environmental decline.

What might change all of this?  One possibility is that China’s leaders may come to realize that they themselves and their families are subject to the unavoidable hazardous effects of the country’s pervasive air pollution.  Young children and the elderly are key risk groups for developing asthma from such pollution.  Polluted water used commonly to irrigate crops can contaminate the food and soil and remain unseen to the consumer.  Similarly, toxic heavy metals from the widespread fallout of factory emissions contaminate the soil and crops that take up the heavy metals as unseen, dangerous contaminants.  Regardless of rank or position, everyone has to eat.  Then too, China’s own studies indicate that pollution is leading to premature deaths, birth defects, industry-related “cancer cities,” and damage to China’s GDP.   China’s efforts to farm in countries worldwide may be an expensive proposition in the long run considering increasing energy costs.  Foreign farming, however, allows China to avoid dealing with the continual loss of arable land at home and the opportunity to restore productivity to its extensive degraded lands.  On the other hand, the belief may continue that it is only other people who are at risk from these man-made environmental problems not the leaders themselves.  Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a prominent scientist, Director of  the Guangzhou Institute of  Respiratory Diseases,  and a National People’s Congress Deputy sums up the situation (Xinhua, 3/9/12) saying:

“In the past five years, lots of patients have asked me why they still got liver, stomach or intestinal cancer despite the fact that they do not drink or smoke.  This made me increasingly aware of the fact that diseases are unavoidable for us if we live in an environment with contaminated air, harmful water and poisonous food.”

Summary information

Agricultural lands: loss and damage

2000:

           Premier Zhu Rongji orders a stop to farmers converting mountain slopes into terraced rice- and wheat-fields along the upper Yangtze River because of the ecological problems it is causing.  Severe floods in this region in 1998 first raised his concerns.  In addition, he said such poor sites yield low food production.  He wants these farmers to receive free coal so they will stop burning natural vegetation, and to receive free grain so that they can switch to tree planting.

The Minister of Land and Resources reports that from 1997 to 2000 China lost 167,500 hectares (646 sq. mi.) of agricultural land to competing uses.

2001:

           Experts from China’s Academy of Engineering, the Agricultural Science Institute, and several leading universities warn that farmers overuse fertilizers and pesticides, and in addition farmers release excessive amounts of untreated sewage to the environment damaging soil fertility.  They state that burning plant materials also is a recognized waste of a valuable resource.

The Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, says that China’s 10th Five Year Plan expresses alarm for the adequacy of future food supplies because of China’s population growth and loss of arable land.  Per capita arable land in China now stands at about 0.1 hectare (0.23 acres), 47 percent of the world average.

           Premier Zhu Rongji urged Sichuan Province to increase conversion of its terraced farmland into forests to slow soil erosion along the upper Yangtze River.  The Premier halted logging in this area in 1998 for the same reason.

2002:

          A study conducted by the State Environmental Protection Administration, the Academy of Sciences, and 12 provincials research centers reports that 7.2 million hectares of farmland in the regions of Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou are salinized and that local authorities should take immediate action to promote remedies such as small-scale farming.  Further, the report says that population growth and economic development have upset the region’s ecological balance.

2003:

          Guangzhou’s government requires that developers must develop their parcel of undeveloped-land within two years.  If not, the government promises that an increased number of the developers will be investigated to find out why they have not started work.

2004:

          Premier Wen Jiabao ordered a stop to illegal land development that encroaches on farmland.  Data from the Ministry of Land and Resources show that the per capita arable land in China dropped from 0.098 hectares in 2002 to 0.095 hectares in 2003.

2005:

          China’s Vice Minister of Water Resources reports that the upper reaches of the Pearl River show some of the most severe erosion in China.  This is the river system that provides water to Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

2006:

            The Ministry of Land and Natural Resources reports that China’s agricultural land decreased 6.2 million hectares from 2001 through 2005 with construction playing a large role in the loss.  Per capita agricultural land in China is 0.093 hectares (0.23 acres), just 40 percent of the world average.

China’s State Council says that it will pursue criminal charges against those people who are involved in major illegal land conversions [commonly referred to in China as “land grabs”].  Local authorities commonly overlook government directives in order to attract investments to build factories and to increase their own personal incomes.  In the first five months of 2006, 12,242 hectares (30,238 acres) of land was converted illegally, a figure 20 percent greater than for the same period in 2005.

To assure the availability of sufficient agricultural land for food production, the Ministry of Land and Resources, and the National Development and Reform Commission initiated new regulations banning construction of golf courses, luxury homes, race tracks, and cemeteries on farmland.

2007:

          The Ministry of Land and Resources reported that in the first nine months of 2006 China lost 6767 sq. km (2613 sq. mi.) of arable land largely from illegal land conversions.  The Beijing Institute of Technology says that even with this recognition local government officials still will be able to cheat farmers out of their land.

          Friends of the Earth in Hong Kong say that solid waste in Hong Kong grew 25 percent in the past ten years and now park lands are under pressure to be used for landfills sites.

China’s Minister of Land and Resources will enforce protection of a minimum of 120 million hectares (463,321 sq. mi.) of arable land.  The situation of arable-lands losses is severe.  The Minister states that the 120 million hectares is the “high voltage, red line” that no one can touch.  Local officials however were responsible for approval of 80 percent of the illegal land conversions they said were intended to foster economic development.

The State Council formed a new task force with the Ministries of Agriculture, Land and Resources, Civil Affairs, and the Central Rural Work Leading Group, and the State Bureau of Letters and Calls to protect farmers from the illegal conversion of their farmlands.  Nevertheless, a farmer still could agree to have local authorities convert his land to non-farm uses.

2008:

         The Statistics Bureau of Guangdong Province says that Guangdong set aside 2.48 million hectares (6.1 million acres) for agriculture in 2007, only 70 percent of that set aside in 1998.  Agricultural production is now only 34 percent of that of ten years ago.  Part of the agricultural land-loss is from industrial development.  The inflow of migrant workers in Guangdong increased food demand.  However, the price of fertilizers and pesticides escalated so much that many rice farmers can no longer afford them.  At the same time the Government has held food prices constant.  Per capita arable land in Guangdong is only one-third of the country’s average.

2010:

Professor Yu Jianrong of the Rural Development Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reports that about 65 percent of riots in rural areas are caused by illegal land conversions.  Since China opened up in the 1980s, 50 million farmers have lost all of their land, and of these almost half lack jobs and social insurance.  Now farmers and their families are being relocated to high-rise buildings so the local government can profit from the sale of farmland to developers.

The Ministry of Land Resources in 2009 has allowed 24 provinces to develop some 13 thousand hectares of rural land by 2012 for commercial development so long as they also opened up an equal amount of farmland.  The intent was to provide incentive to local authorities to increase the area of China’s agricultural land.  This has resulted in farmers and their families being moved to apartment complexes off site and that the land occupied by their old homes in turn is being sold for industrial development by local government officials for their own profit.

2011:

          China’s National Bureau of Statistics says that China’s arable land per capita is just 32 percent of the world average and that China, between 1996 and 2009, lost 8 million hectares of arable land.  Lin Yi, Secretary General of the Chinese-African People’s Friendship Association says that there is great potential for African countries to help offset China’s agricultural land deficiency by growing crops for China.

           Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out sharply to members of the State Council that the problem of the misuse of China’s shrinking arable land and water resources to accommodate construction and operation of illegal golf courses continues.  China banned new golf courses in 2004 and banned them again several times since then.  Nevertheless, 400 of China’s 600 golf courses have been built since 2004.

Because of China’s insufficient arable land and water resources the Minister of Agriculture reports that China’s new Five-Year Plan will strengthen support for Chinese companies to grow food in foreign countries.  Minister Han Changfu says that overseas farming has become an important strategy for China.

A poll of farmers conducted by Renmin University’s School of Agricultural Economic and Rural Development finds that the largest cause of rural riots since 2002 is farmers having their land seized and sold by local government authorities without adequate compensation. The amount of land sales conducted by local authorities is a key criterion used in the authorities’ promotion.  The Ministry of Land and Resources reports that 18,500 hectares of land had been misused in the first six months of 2011, one-third of which is from seized farmland.

                             Water pollution and water scarcity

2000:

          An announcement by the Ministry of Water Resources and Zhang Guoliangof the South-to-North Transfer Planning and Design Administration says that because of severe drought and low water availability in the Beijing region that China’s government in the next few years will initiate Chairman Mao’s 1952 idea of constructing three, long canals to move water north from the Yangtze River to solve the water problem.  They estimate that 50 billion cu. meters of water would be moved north annually.  The project is controversial because of human rights issues, environmental concerns, and corruption.  At least one million villagers will be resettled during the project’s construction.

2001:

          The Director of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration says that environmental impact statements (EIS) now will be required for major projects.  He also says that it will be impossible to clean up China’s lakes and river in less than 30 years.  Overuse of fertilizers and the improper disposal of animal, industrial, and urban wastes has adversely affected 80 percent of China’s waterways.

          China Daily, China’s official newspaper,reports that 400 of China’s 668 cities face water shortages and rivers and lakes are drying up.  Over the next 15 years three canals, the eastern, central, and western, will be constructed to move water from south to north to major cities to offset water shortages caused mainly by overuse of groundwater and unrestrained industrial development.  The first canal to be built will be 2400 km (1491 miles) long [~distance from Miami, FL to Boston, MA].  The eastern and central canals will deliver 16 billion cubic meters of water/year.

The Development Research Center of the State Council describes the damaging effects that ground-water over pumping caused  in the north.  Some roads buckled and some buildings tilted and even toppled.  Cangzhou subsided about two meters in 30 years.  Yet, the population and economy keep growing thus adding to the increased demand for water.  They expect that diversions of river water from the south to the north will solve the problem.

A study of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Chinese Agricultural Science Institute, and several leading Chinese universities says that overuse of commercial fertilizers is causing a sharp decline in soil fertility, and that rivers and aquifers are being polluted by cattle waste, 97 percent of which is released to the environment untreated.

         Wuhan University researchers warn that diverting water from rivers in the south to those in the north will worsen the water quality in the lower reaches of the tapped river and they expect that fish kills and algal increases will result.

         Premier Zhu Rongji wants water-diversion projects expedited to move water from the wet south to the water-deficient north, an idea first proposed by Chairman Mao in 1952.  The scale of the effort will be equal to that of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

The Ministry of Water Resources reports that Chinese industry rates very low on water recycling, and that Chinese farmers use twice the world average of water to grow grain.

         Premier Zhu Rongji reports that China’s inadequate water supply is the biggest constraint to the country’s development.  Three hundred Chinese water experts agreed that per capita availability of fresh water in China is only one-quarter of the global average; globally China ranks 109th in per capita water availability

Xie Zhenhua, Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration reports that China shut down 84,000 polluting industries in the past five years.

2002:

         The State Environmental Protection Administration reports that illegal processing of smuggled computer wastes in Guangdong and Zhejiang Provinces is a public-health problem and that the wastes pollute rivers and groundwater with heavy metals.

2003:

The Ministry of Water Resources reports that China’s south-to-north water diversion project is scheduled for completion in 2050.  Hundreds of waste-water plants will have to be built along the three canals and nearby polluting factories will have to be closed.  Concerns exist that tapped rivers will no longer be able to flush themselves, and that ground-water tables will fall and algal blooms will increase.

The Ministry of Land and Resources reports that half of China’s aquifers are polluted, one-half of urban groundwater is unfit to drink, and that 70 million people use groundwater which does not meet government standards. China’s ground-water use increased from 14 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in 2000.  Forty-six cities are adversely affected by land subsidence from over pumping of groundwater.

2005:

The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) says that at least one-half of the water in China’s 500 cities is unfit to drink.  At least 190 of these cities do not treat domestic sewage.  SEPA urges the country to start to develop a sustainable economy.

The Ministry of Water Resources and a professor from Hohai University in Nanjing report that of the 84,000 dams used to generate electricity and to irrigate farms, 40 percent have safety risks.  Some 3500 dams collapsed since 1954, and nearly 55 percent of Guangdong’s dams exist in a dangerous state.

The Vice Minister of Water Resources reports that the per capita fresh-water availability in China is about one-quarter of the world average and that number is expected to fall.

2006:

The Minister of Water Resources announced that the basic solution to China’s water-shortage problem is water conservation.  He says that at least 320 million rural Chinese people lack access to safe drinking water.

The East China Normal University of Shanghai and Xinhua’s Economic Information Daily report that the Yangtze River receives 40 percent waste water, 80 percent of which is untreated.  The waste water comes from industrial and chemical sources, sewage, agricultural pollution, and ship discharges.

The Vice Minister of Water Resources and Xinhua report that China is forecast to use up at least 89 percent of its available fresh-water by 2030.

2007:

          Wang Shucheng, Minister of Water Resources, reports that 190 million Chinese drink water tainted by toxic substances that exceed China’s safety standards.

The Water Resources Department of Guangdong and Xinhua state that although Guangdong has a plentiful water supply much of it is unfit for human consumption because of pollution.  About 40 percent of Guangdong’s rivers are too polluted for use as drinking water and about 60 percent of the province’s waste water is released untreated.  Lower than normal rainfall has worsened the problem in recent years.

2008:

          The Chinese Ministry of Health reports that a national survey shows that 75 percent of drinking water in rural areas comes from groundwater and, of this, 46 percent is not safe to drink.  Further, 40 percent of drinking water obtained from surface sources also is not safe to drink.

The Guangdong Water Resources Department reports that almost one-half of the Pearl River Delta’s streams are polluted and that the number of polluted provincial rivers is increasing.  The water quality of the middle and lower reaches of the Dongjiang is getting worse, the river used to provide most of Hong Kong’s drinking water.

2010:

          Plans to link two rivers in Guangdong and Jiangxi by canal is strongly opposed by academics and former officials and called “ridiculous” and a “potential natural disaster.”  The 1237 km. (769 mile; ~ the distance from Washington, D.C. to Milwaukee, WI)  canal would be open to shipping.  The canal project is thought to be another of the colossal water-diversion projects favored by Chinese officials.  This assessment is made by the Jiangxi Waterways Bureau, Jiangxi Provincial Development and Reform Commission, Sun Yat-Sen University, Ministry for Environmental Protection, and other Jiangxi Province waterways experts.

The construction of the south-to-north water diversion project will require displacing 345,000 rural poor people within two years.  The People’s Daily and the project’s director report that to date the project has suffered from delays, cost over-runs, pollution, and resettlement issues.

Air pollution

1999:

The Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau states that acid rainfell 90 percent of the time in Guangzhou and 50 percent of the time in Pearl River Delta damaging soil productivity.

The Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, Xie Zhenhua, estimates the cost of air pollution in China for 1999 at 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion).

2001:

The Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau reports that acid rain fell 44 percent of the time on Pearl River Delta cities with average pH readings of 4.83 but some readings as low as pH 3.46.  Thirty percent of China suffers from acid rain.  [Note: The pH of normal rainfall is 5.6.  The smaller the pH number denotes increasing acidity.]

2002:

          A joint report by the governments of Hong Kong and Guangdong states that air quality declined sharply in this region.  Visibility in Shenzhen was nine times worse in the late 1990s than in 1991.  Guangdong air quality over this period is five times worse and that of Hong Kong’s is three times worse.

2004:

Wang Jirong, Deputy Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, reports that much ofChina’s acid rain comes from emissions of the growing numbers of China’sautomobiles and from the burning of cheap, high-sulfur coal.

2005:

The State Environmental Protection Administration’s Deputy Director Wang Jirong reports that serious levels of air pollution exist in 119 of China’s 500 large cities.

2006:

TheU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that on some days 25 percent of particulate matter (PM) in the air over Los Angeles originates from polluted air in China.  The EPA data show a presence also of PM from China in the air over the state of Washington, and Oregon.  The EPA predicts an increase in PM from China because of China’s deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and current long-lasting drought.

U.S. scientists report that China’s polluted air reached Los Angeles, CA.  However, China’s State Environmental Protection Administration says the claim is “irresponsible” and “groundless.”

China’s Meteorological Administration reports that during half of the year, acid rain fell on Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and parts of Hunan Province.

2007:

Only acid rain fell on Guangzhou (old Canton) during the first three months of 2007 with no pH reading higher than 3.8 reports the Guangzhou Institute of Tropical and Oceanic Meteorology.  The acid rain damaged the area’s agricultural output, buildings and historic sites.

The Guangdong Meteorological Bureau reports that the city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong had 231 smoggy days in 2007 up from164 in 2006 suggesting ineffective air-pollution controls.

2008:

Guangdong Province had 75.5 smoggy days in 2007, the highest number on record dating back to 1949, and twenty-seven cities and counties broke previous smoggy-day records, some as high as 240 days reports the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau.  In addition, air pollution spread regionally because some polluting factories were moved from the Pearl River Delta to rural inland sites.

China’s Academy of Environmental Planning says that 358,000 urban dwellers in 600 cities died prematurely in 2004 from air pollution.

Hong Kong’s air is the smoggiest since 2004 reports the Academy of Environmental Planning.

The Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau reports that acid rain fell on 53.4 percent of Guangdong Province.  Two-thirds of the province’s 21 cities have acid rainwith pH values of no more than 4.81.

Economic estimates considered “very conservative” made by community medical specialists at the University of Hong Kong suggest that Pearl River Delta air pollution costs about US$1 billion annually, adversely affecting the health of children and elderly the most.

2010:

Chai Fahe, Vice Head of the Research Academy of Environmental Sciences said that the rapid rise in the number of China’s automobiles is worsening air pollution, a air-pollution situation already considered serious.

The Baptist University of Hong Kong in a poll conducted for the Civic Exchange finds that one-quarter of those polled are seriously considering leaving their Hong Kong jobs because of the high level of air pollution; half of those holding post-graduate degrees said the same.  Overall, 60 percent of those people polled lack confidence in the government to improve the air quality.

2011:

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)hopes China will start to measure PM-2.5 (2.5 micron particulate matter) airpollutants that are believed to pose acute health risks.

Du Shaozhong, the Deputy Director of Beijing’s Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, reports that a combination of fog and smog covered north China and parts of southern provinces for three days closing many airports and highways.  Measurement of amounts of 10-micrometer airborne particulate matter (PM-10) showed the air to be “very polluted;” measurement of the dangerous PM-2.5 particles exceeded the maximum allowable level of 500.

The China’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Zhou Shengxian, proposes to have the government begin to measure PM-2.5 as well as the ozone in the air but says the data will not be released to the public until 2016. The slow release he proposes (5 years) caused strong controversy between the government and environmentalists reports Ma Jun, Head of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

2012:

          Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department reports that the air-pollution level in Hong Kong surpassed all records of previous years.  Air pollution here in recent years has led to some of Hong Kong’s business executives relocate because of health concerns.

Environment: general issues

2000:

          The Head of China’s State Development and Planning Commission says the government will extend the food-compensation program from three up to eight years for those farmers who give up farming to plant trees and grasses in the upper Yangtze and Yellow River watersheds to help slow erosion.

2001:

The Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration  says that China’s environmental future looks grim because the government has not been able to stop environmental deterioration.  Half of the rivers flowing through China’s cities are seriously polluted, 30 percent of the country suffers from acid rain, and the damage from soil erosion is serious.

The Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration announces that China’s severe environmental problem is getting worse.

The State Environmental Protection Administration and China’s Academy of Science report that dam building is adversely affecting wetlands and is lowering ground-water tables; too much of China’s forests are being cut for agricultural expansion; too much untreated waste is entering the Yangtze River making it difficult to obtain clean drinking water and, the polluted river-water prevents its diversion for safe usage elsewhere.

2003:

The State Environmental Protection Administration reports that pollution from industrial sources has been surpassed by the combined adverse effects of the release of agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and animal waste.  Today China only treats three percent of its livestock waste.  China’s Agricultural Academy of Science as early as 2000 reported that China already used 35 percent of the world’s fertilizer production.

China’s State Forestry Administration estimates that 15 to 20 percent of the country’s plants and animals are endangered versus the global average of 10 to 15 percent.  Poaching, habitat destruction, and pollution play a key role in the losses.  Ground-water shortages exist in 110 cities from over pumping.  Only a low level of environmental awareness exists today with China’s people.

2004:

The State Environmental Protection Administration’s Annual Report states that no improvement has been made in environmental quality and that acid rain has worsened, ground-water overuse in the northwest and south is serious, and that subsidence from over pumping groundwater now adversely affects 46 cities.

Pan Yue, Deputy Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration says that almost all of China’s anti-pollution funds are directed to industries and cities but in rural areas at least 300 million farmers drink unclean water.  Ten million hectares of farmland is polluted and environmental protection in cities comes at the expense of rural sites where garbage is dumped and where cities relocate polluting factories.

2005:

The Asian Development Bank reports that China shows littleconcern for stopping energy waste.  The Deputy Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration says that “China is still a developing country” and, “Our development cannot stop.”

Nearly one-third of China’s cities do not treat their sewage but merely dump it into local waterways reports T. Johnson, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau.  Many provincial and local officials shield polluters and do not enforce environmental laws.

Premier Wen Jiabao says that the environment still is in a dismal situation and that the environment must not be sacrificed for economic development.  He believes that what is needed isfor China to practice sustainable development.  The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) says that 70 percent of China’s lakes and rivers now are polluted.

2006:

Premier Wen Jiabao says that “local authority’s blind pursuit of economic development” and lack of adherence to environment laws is the cause of China’s environmental damage.

The State Environmental Protection Administration reports that pollution now costs China ten percent of its GDP.  The cost is a function of the adverse effects economic growth has on the environment; mainland pollution has allowed Hong Kong to become an environmental victim.  China’s efforts to reverse pollution problems “allows for no optimism.”  A Tsinghua University professor added that many local NGOs do not dare criticize local governments’ unscientific decisions that lead to additional pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that on some days 25 percent of particulate matter in the air over Los Angeles originates in China.

China’s Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration states that pollution in the first six months of 2006 was partly due to corruption and that a conflict exists between environmental protection and economic growth.  Fraud is common in the project-approval process because environmental impact statements (EIS) are avoided.  Half of the projects initiated failed to install pollution controls during the construction process.

2007:

A South China Morning Post environmental review reports that pollution is held responsible for affecting six percent of all birth defects in China.

2008:

Chen Jiaji, the Mayor ofQingyuan in northern Guangdong Province, says that the relocation of some polluting industries from the Pearl River Delta to his inland city carried with it new pollution problems.  He says his city now is only able to treat 35 percent of its sewage whereas in 2005 it was able treat 45 percent.

The Vice Minister of Environmental Protection says that the Pearl River Delta is one of China’s most polluted areas.  Even after spending US$4.35 billion to abate pollution at the mouth of the Pearl River few signs of improvement exist.

2009:

Ten percent of all birth defects that occurred over a five-year period in Jiangsu Province are caused by environmental pollution reports the Jiangsu Birth Defects Intervention Programme.  The number of birth defects is reported greater in areas where “development” is more advanced.

2010:

Premier Wen Jiabao said that China’s pollution has moved from “bad to worse” and that the county’s pollution is not controlled.  An Academy of Social Sciences’ professor says that China’s people do not know where and how well the government’s pollution funds have been spent.

A review in the British medical journal Lancet says that China’s pollution remains a major peril to health.  Water quality in rural areas is declining and increased regulatory enforcement is needed.

2011:

The Deputy Minister of the Environmental Protection reports that China had to deal with 912 pollution “outbreaks” (demonstrations, some of which were violent) over the past five years.  In addition, the Minister of Environmental Protection says that in 2010 there were 32 such incidents alone from lead and cadmium (heavy-metal) poisonings.

Reuters in Beijing reports that at least half of China’s cities have acid rain, and one-sixth of the rivers are not fit for irrigation use.  Many local officials place growth, revenue, jobs, and individual wealth ahead of China’s environmental protection.

The Minister of Environmental Protection says that the laws for protecting the environment are inadequate, insufficiently funded, and that legal enforcement is weak and regulation abilities are lacking.

China’s Vice-Premier Li Keqiang set a goal to make environmental protection a development priority over the next decade but many Chinese are skeptical of achieving the goal.

2012:

Premier Wen Jiabao’s message to the China’s State Council emphasized that corruption is the most crucial threat to the ruling party, and that if not dealt with properly it might completely undermine China’s political foundations.  He wants to improve government transparency so that the public can follow closely what government officials do in their jobs.

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