Thursday, May 1, 2014

China Takes Turn to Reduce Pollution

By Rudy Reda 

Throughout China, toxic contamination plagues the landscape.  Centuries of environmental neglect through general disregard as well as poor policies, has allowed the situation in China to reach a tipping point. Over the past several months images have begun to surface on which show clouds of smog so thick that one can barely see 50 meters (54 yards).The smog is so dense, a 150 mile span can be seen from space via a NASA satellite. According to a study by an environmental group, the air quality is at a point in which just breathing is the equivalent to smoking 21 – 25 cigarettes (just over a pack) a day.

Unfortunately, despite the poor air quality that the Chinese face, it is not the only environmental contamination issue they are dealing with.  In a recent report issued by the Chinese government, it was stated that almost 60% of groundwater in the country is contaminated.  In the northern, more heavily populated area of the country that figure rises to approximately 70%. The contamination of the groundwater is to a level of such heavy pollution, it is deemed unfit for human touch.  This contaminated groundwater ultimately feeds into various water bodies, including those which are used as drinking water supplies.

A report by TODAY stated that in many populated areas, people are inclined to boil their water or purchase bottled water due to the general distrust of the water that comes out of the tap. This concern has also been shifted towards the livestock and crops which come into contact with this contaminated water. In addition to the air and water, the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection has reported that approximately 16% of the country’s soil is contaminated beyond safe levels.  These soil contaminates range from arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium to a variety of inorganic compounds which the Ministry attributes to various human activities, according to Reuters.

This issue of such widespread and diverse pollution has been a great cause for concern all across China. It has reached a point in which the country has declared a war on pollution. Chinese news agency Xinhuanet reported that for the first time in 25 years, China is revising their Environmental Policy Law.  Under the proposed revisions, economic and social development projects will now take environmental considerations into account. Additionally, the law calls for studies to be conducted regarding the impact environmental quality has on public health, while also focusing on prevention and control of pollution and their associated ailments. Stricter punishments such as jail time and/or heavier fines will also be imposed on those who violate the law, while whistleblowers will now receive increased protection.

The revised Environmental Protection Law will be expanded to a total of 70 articles, up from a current 47, and will go into effect on January 1, 2015. In addition to the revisions to the law, the country is planning on spending $275 billion over 5 years to improve air quality, and is already the world’s largest investor in renewable energy.  The Chinese government is not waiting until the new law goes into effect, it is now requiring factories to publicly release their emissions information, similar to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) in the United States. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China has been reaching out to various environmental groups and NGO’s for help.  While also seeking foreign technology companies to collaborate on joint projects to further develop and research new technologies.

The situation that has emerged in China should be an eye-opener to the world.  The levels of pollution they face are ones that should never exist, for every human should have the right to clean air, water and soil. As we continue to monitor the conditions in China, we will be able to see if they can rectify their current environmental problems. If they succeed in reducing the contamination levels, they will send a clear message to the world. If they can do it, then the world as a whole can work together to ensure a cleaner and healthier earth for mankind.


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