Archive for ‘Environment’


Lhasa launches 80 new energy buses to protect environment

LHASA, July 6 (Xinhua) — Eighty buses using new energy have been put into use Saturday morning in Lhasa, the capital city of China’s southwest Tibet Autonomous Region, which will help reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and further improve the local air quality.

The new buses are all plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, equipped with Tibetan-Mandarin bilingual station announcements, driving monitoring and management systems, and auto-alarms, according to the city’s bus operation company.

The company purchased 110 new energy buses after the city’s 104 old buses reached their service lives. The other 30 buses are scheduled to be put into operation by the end of this month. By then, Lhasa will have 422 new energy buses, accounting for more than 80 percent of the city’s total buses.

“Our goal of vigorously promoting new energy vehicles is to implement the low-carbon and green way of traveling, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to protect the clear water and blue sky of the snowy plateau,” said Gogyi, general manager of the company.

Lhasa plans to replace its old buses with new energy ones by batches, and all of the city’s buses are expected to be powered by new energy by 2021, said Gogyi.

Currently, Lhasa has 522 buses and 41 bus routes, covering the main urban areas, suburbs and surrounding counties, making it more and more convenient for locals to travel by public transportation.

Source: Xinhua


UN’s environment chief urges China to keep belt and road projects green and clean

  • Joyce Msuya of the UN Environment Programme is full of praise for Beijing’s success in tackling air pollution but says there is work still to be done
  • Commitment to environmental protection seen at home must be extended to infrastructure projects developed overseas, she says
Joyce Msuya, acting head of the UN Environment Programme, says bad infrastructure can have a negative environmental impact. Photo: Simon Song
Joyce Msuya, acting head of the UN Environment Programme, says bad infrastructure can have a negative environmental impact. Photo: Simon Song
The United Nations’ environment chief has appealed to China to apply the same environmental standards to infrastructure projects it develops overseas under its Belt and Road Initiative as it does to those built on its own soil.
“We know from history, bad infrastructure can lead to negative environmental impact,” said Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the UN Environment Programme. “Given China’s record on and interest in environmental protection, we hope and expect they will apply the same spirit as they invest in developing countries.”
While acknowledging the value of infrastructure building in developing nations, Msuya said it was equally important to consider the environmental implications of 
belt and road


“We are interested in working with member countries that have been beneficiaries [of Chinese investment] to see what concerns, if any, what risks, if any, they see,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of an event in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province, to mark World Environment Day, which fell on Wednesday.
Scores of countries are involved in Beijing’s multibillion-dollar belt and road plan in one way or another, but as it has expanded so too have the concerns over its environmental impact.
In late 2017, the WWF issued a report claiming that the development of two motorway projects in Myanmar would have a negative environmental impact on about half of its population.
China ‘facing uphill struggle’ in fight against pollution

On China’s efforts to tackle pollution at home, Msuya said that although the move towards a greener economy might require communities to make sacrifices in the short term, these would be outweighed by the long-term benefits.

China has been fighting a “war on pollution” since 2013 but as 

economic pressures

have grown so too have concerns that industry unfriendly environmental efforts might be relegated to the back burner. The nation’s gross domestic product grew by just 6.6 per cent in 2018, its slowest rate since 1990, and for the past year it has been embroiled in a stinging trade war with the United States.

China has been fighting a “war on pollution” since 2013. Photo: Simon Song
China has been fighting a “war on pollution” since 2013. Photo: Simon Song

Msuya said that while Beijing had done a good job in improving air quality, it still had some way to go on issues like water, soil and noise pollution.

“China is quite diverse, with many provinces … so the scale of the challenge of dealing with pollution is more complex,” she said. “[But] by building on its experience of cleaning the air, I have full confidence in the Chinese government.”

Pollution in northern China up 16 per cent in January as industrial activity spikes

According to a report issued by Beijing on Wednesday, average levels of PM2.5 – the tiny airborne particles that are particularly harmful to health – in more than 70 cities across

China fell by an average of 42 per cent in the five years through 2018.

Smog levels in the Chinese capital fell 43 per cent in the period, but the average reading in the city last year was still more than five times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe level.

Air quality was the main theme of the Hangzhou event.

Msuya has first-hand experience of Beijing’s air quality having worked in the city as the World Bank Group’s regional coordinator for East Asia and the Pacific between 2011 and 2014.

“When I moved to Beijing in 2011, I honestly didn’t know how bad the air pollution was.

My son was six at the time and I always made sure he wore a mask when he went out to play,” she said.

“Fast forward to now, and China has shown us that the problem of air pollution can be tackled if everyone participates.”

Source: SCMP


Caohai Lake in China’s Guizhou recovers original size


Photo taken on June 20, 2019 shows scenery at Caohai National Nature Reserve in Weining County, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Caohai Lake, a major wetland in southwest China and an important wintering place for black-necked cranes, has recovered its original size. The lake once shrank sharply due to pollution and farming practices. (Xinhua/Tao Liang)

Source: Xinhua


Aarey forest: The fight to save Mumbai’s last ‘green lung’

Aarey ForestImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Aarey forest is in Mumbai city

The Aarey forest, a verdant strip that lies at the heart of India’s bustling Mumbai city, is often referred to as its last green lung. But now, locals say, it’s under threat from encroachment. BBC Marathi’s Janhavee Moole reports.

As a child, Stalin Dayanand used to picnic in the Aarey forest.

“It was the only place where you could go and play, climb trees or just sit and eat under the shade of a tree and be close to nature,” says Stalin, who prefers to go by his first name.

Now the 54-year-old is the director of an NGO that works to protect forests and wetlands. He is fighting for Aarey.

On 6 June, the government cleared 40 hectares (99 acres) of the 1,300 hectare forest to build a zoo, complete with a night safari.

Another slice of it is being claimed by Mumbai’s new metro rail which is currently under construction. Thousands of trees will have to be felled to construct a new multi-level parking unit for the metro.

Media caption What happens if you ban plastic?

Stalin has petitioned India’s Supreme Court challenging the construction, but the case is still pending.

Locals and environmental activists like him are up in arms because they fear the government will eventually clear the way for private builders to encroach on the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which lies to the north of Aarey. Spread over 104 sq km (40 sq miles), this protected area makes Mumbai one of the rare cities to have a jungle within its boundaries.

Their concern is partly fuelled by the fact that this is prime location in a city where land is scarce and real estate prices are among the most expensive in the world.

But officials dismiss these fears as unfounded and point out that the construction for the metro only requires 30 hectares of the 1,300 hectares that make up the Aarey forest.

“This is the most suitable land due to its size, shape and location,” says Ashwini Bhide, managing director of the Mumbai metro rail corporation.

Residents of Aarey colony and Aam Aadmi Party members protest against cutting of trees to build a metro shed at Aarey Colony on 2 October 2018 in Mumbai, India.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Plans to fell trees in the forest have led to protests

She adds that the city badly needs a “mass rapid transport system”. India’s financial hub is congested and infamous for its crawling traffic jams and its local train system heavily overburdened.

Officials say that the metro will eventually carry around 1.7 million passengers every day and bring down the number of vehicles on the road by up to 650,000. The city’s current colonial-era railway system, which is effectively its lifeline, ferries some 7.5 million people between Mumbai’s suburbs and its heart on a daily basis.

But they have been up against the city’s residents, including activists and conservationists, ever since news emerged in 2014 that trees would be cut to make way for the metro.

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What makes the issue complicated is that the Aarey forest is the site of competing claims.

It’s locally known as the Aarey “milk colony” because most of the land was given to the department of dairy development in 1951. But they are allowed to grow cattle fodder only on a fraction of the land. The rest of it is densely forested and dotted with lakes, and the Mithi river flows through it.

Aarey is also home to tribal communities who live in settlements known as “padas”.

“We are not getting basic facilities here, and now metro authorities want to take away the jungle which belongs to us too,” says Asha Bhoye, who belongs to the Konkani tribe and lives in one of the 29 padas. Plans to relocate some of the tribal communities have also met with resistance and led to protests.

Stalin alleges that instead of declaring the Aarey forest a protected area, the state government has used the opportunity to parcel away pieces of it first to the dairy development department and now to other projects.

Aadivasi Halka Sanvardhan Samiti and Tribals of Aarey colony protesting to demand protection of Aare forest.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Tribals who live in Aarey demand that it be declared a protected area

“Aarey Forest is part of the same forest as Sanjay Gandhi National Park and we are fighting for the national park itself. In the name of public good, the land is being opened up for developers. It’s a systematic effort to destroy the forest.”

Activists fear that after the parking units are built, other projects will be permitted, further threatening the area’s ecology and wildlife, which includes leopards.

So locals have joined the fight enthusiastically, even leading hikes into the forest to raise awareness. “We bring people here, make them familiar with the forest – there are many species of spiders like trapdoor spiders, the site [of the parking unit] is a leopard site,” says Yash Marwa, a screenwriter who is among those campaigning for the forest.

“Mumbai needs to be liveable”, he adds. “We need to talk about good quality of air and life before talking about infrastructure and development.”

Stalin agrees, saying that “air quality and temperature seem to be last among people’s priorities.”

But he is determined to not give up.

“If I couldn’t do something for my city I’d consider I’ve failed myself.”

Source: The BBC


A pollution crackdown compounds slowdown woes in China’s heartland

ANYANG/SANGPO, China (Reuters) – For years, China’s industrial heartland has been cloaked in smog, its waterways choked with pollution pumped from enormous clusters of factories churning out the mountains of cement and steel needed to build the Chinese economy.

Aiming to tackle what has become a huge public health problem, the authorities have cracked down on polluting industries, targeting provinces like Henan, which has a population of 100 million people and hundreds of factory towns.
According to interviews with factory and business owners, and consumers and workers across Henan, that crackdown – conducted with often heavy-handed local enforcement – is crippling the economies of towns and cities that depend on polluting industries.
Manufacturers across Henan have been particularly hard hit by the new environmental regulations, compounding the pressures the province faces from China’s slowing economy and a grinding trade war with the United States.
It also highlights the trade-off China faces between providing a healthier environment for its citizens and maintaining economic growth in a province whose climb from poverty has lagged that of coastal regions.
China does not provide statistics on the costs of the environmental crackdown, but it has said that short-term pain will lead to long-term growth through an economic “upgrade”.
The information office of the State Council, China’s cabinet, did not respond to a faxed request for comment on the economic effects of the new restrictions.
It’s difficult to get a full picture of Henan’s economy from unreliable official figures, as it is for the whole country. Henan’s official growth rate was 7.6% in 2018, higher than the national rate and down 0.2 of a percentage point from 2017.

But the interviews conducted by Reuters across Henan suggest consumers are spending less, cities are struggling to retool their economies and the pollution crackdown is hurting businesses and employment.


The steel-producing centre of Anyang, which has long had some of the worst air in China, is one place that has been hit hard by the anti-pollution campaign.

The city of more than 5 million people, dominated by the infrastructure and insignia of the state-owned Anyang Iron and Steel Group, has forced local industry to upgrade equipment and curb pollution, and shut down companies that were unwilling or unable to comply.

Li Huifeng, president of Baoshun High-Tech Corporation, a coking coal company founded by his parents in 1983, said the cost of compliance had been painful.

Baoshun’s huge plant, built in the hills in the west of Anyang, was forced to implement production cuts last winter even though it had installed low-emissions equipment that exceeded required standards.

“Last year, business was really good but this year it is full of uncertainties,” said Li. He added that new efficiency guidelines were likely to result in the closure of many producers of coking coal, which is used in steel production.

Li Xianzhong, the owner of the Xinyuan Steel Mill in Anyang’s western outskirts, said he was facing curbs on production as well as spiralling costs because of the new environmental regulations.

According to industry estimates, environmental costs per tonne of steel produced have risen to around 150 yuan per tonne, up from less than 50 yuan per tonne when the war on pollution was launched in 2014.

“All this equipment needs a lot of capital, and after you’ve invested, the operation costs are also higher,” said Li. “If you don’t meet the standards, you aren’t allowed to operate.”

Near the sprawling Anyang steel plant in the city centre, residents and workers complained that the new environmental inspection rules had made it harder to make a living.

Many small workshops, which often use small metalworking furnaces, have also been targeted.

“Before we would just give them a pack of cigarettes or treat them to a meal and you’d then be fine for a year, but now it’s no use,” said a bicycle repairman, identifying himself by his surname Zhang, whose workshop near the plant was shut by inspectors.

Over the past years, Anyang has tried encouraging new and cleaner forms of economic growth. It has shut hundreds of small polluters in sectors like ceramics and cement, and tried to attract industries like solar panels and electric vehicles by offering incentives and building sprawling new industrial parks.

However, it has struggled to compete with numerous Chinese cities making similar bets, especially as China’s economy slows.

And the results of the anti-pollution efforts have been mixed.

Steel still accounts for more than half of Anyang’s economy – unchanged from a decade ago – and the environment is still bad. The taste of brimstone hangs in the air, and the fairy lights festooned on hundreds of cranes on the city’s skyline could only be dimly seen during a recent visit.
Part of the problem, according to Liu Bingjiang, who heads the Ministry of Ecology and Environment’s air pollution office, is that smog is also blowing in from neighbouring industrial regions, undermining local cleanup efforts.
“All these measures, all these plans are in place, but it still can’t solve the smog,” said Li, the steel mill owner.


The anti-pollution campaign is also hitting much smaller industrial centres.

Sangpo, a dusty two-street village in northeast Henan, used to live off scores of sheepskin processing factories cranking out winter boots modelled on UGG, the American brand with Australian roots.

While the industry was the main employer in the village, that came with a heavy environmental cost: treating the raw sheepskin consumed copious amounts of water and contaminated the local water supply.

Last July, the government moved to close most of the factories, sending dozens of police cars into Sangpo with sirens wailing to enforce the shutdown.

Government inspectors were installed to keep watch at each factory to ensure compliance with the order. Three factory owners were arrested for violating environmental regulations.

During a visit to Sangpo by Reuters, most factories were idle during what should have been peak production season. Hundreds of workers had left town in search of work elsewhere, leaving behind shuttered shopfronts and deserted roads.

“The village is at a tipping point,” said a former factory owner who only wanted to be identified by his surname, Ding. Most businesses were mostly “more dead than alive,” he added.

Before the factories were shut, the village of 6,500 people, mainly from the Hui Muslim minority, had been punching well above its weight.

It achieved national recognition as a thriving model of e-commerce, winning glowing write-ups in national newspapers after it was named in 2015 by the tech giant Alibaba as central China’s very first “Taobao village” – a designation for top rural sellers on the company’s internet retailing platform.

But that all changed last year as China’s pollution crackdown intensified. The top county-level official, factory owners said, held a town hall meeting and threatened to shut everyone down permanently. A deal was made for 19 of the 135 factories to remain.

Those wanting to stay open agreed to upgrade their businesses and invest in equipment to ensure they met water treatment standards. Factories that opted out were shut, their boilers and processing equipment destroyed.

The government of Mengzhou, which oversees Sangpo, declined to comment when reached by phone. But Mengzhou’s mayor said last year that the crackdown was necessary and in accordance with the popular will, according to a statement on the Mengzhou government website.

Sangpo village’s party chief declined to comment when reached via the Chinese messaging app WeChat. Calls to his cellphone went unanswered.

The county government’s plan is to corral remaining factories into a new industrial zone by the end of the year. But remaining business owners are worried about the slow pace of construction and fear they will be forced to shut.

Ding, the former factory owner, said business owners didn’t expect the crackdown – which has also discouraged lending from banks – to be so harsh.

“Everyone in the village was moaning and sighing but no one thought it would be this extreme,” Ding said.  “We are at our wits’ end.”

Source: Reuters


China’s wealthy families are turning to long holidays abroad as their efforts emigrate overseas are halted

  • Foreign lifestyle experiences are becoming more popular as citizens seek to escape pollution, food and medicine safety worries and authoritarian government controls
  • Citizens encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock
Thailand, including the likes of Chiang Mai, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand are popular destinations for Chinese families. Photo: Shutteratock

Xu Zhangle and her husband and their two children are a typical middle-class couple from Shenzhen, and along with 60 other Chinese families, they are going on an extended holiday to Thailand in July, where they hope to enjoy an immigrant-like life experience.

The family have paid a travel agent around 50,000 yuan (US$7,473) for the stay in Chiang Mai in the mountainous north of the country, including transport, a three-week summer camp for their daughters at a local international school, rent for a serviced apartment and daily expenses.

Zhangle loves Chiang Mai’s relaxed lifestyle and easy atmosphere and wants to live as a local for a month or even longer, instead of having to rush through a short-term holiday.

“It would not be just [tourist] travelling but rather a life away from the mainland.” she said.

Recently, upper middle-class citizens have increased their efforts to safeguard their wealth and achieve more freedom by spending more time abroad.

They have invested considerable amounts of money in overseas properties and applied for long-stay visas, although many of their attempts have ended in failure.

Chinese citizens are encountering more barriers to their dreams of travelling abroad, with severe limits on moving money overseas and restrictions on visiting foreign countries.

Still, growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China.

Among the options, there is growing demand for sojourns abroad of a month or more, to enjoy a foreign lifestyle for a brief period to make up for the fact that their emigration dreams may have stalled.

“I think this is becoming a trend. Chinese middle-class families are facing increasing difficulties to emigrate and own homes overseas. On the other hand, they still yearn for more freedom, for a better quality of life than what is found in first-tier cities in China.

They are eager to seek alternatives to give themselves and their children a global lifestyle,” said Cai Mingdong, founder of Zhejiang Newway, an online tour and education operator in Ningbo, south of Shanghai.

“First, the availability of multiple-entry tourist visas and the sharp drop in air ticket prices have made it convenient and practical to stay abroad for from a few weeks to up to three months each year.”

Blacklist labels millions of Chinese citizens and businesses untrustworthy

Now, many well-to-do Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in a number of countries — including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries — for up to six months at a time.

“In 2011, a round-trip air ticket from Shanghai to New Zealand cost 14,000 yuan (US$2,000), but now is about 4,000 (US$598),” added Cai.

This opens up the possibility for many middle-class families who are not eligible to emigrate, to live abroad for short periods of time.

Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP
Many wealthy Chinese middle class families can get a tourist visa for five or even 10 years that allows them to stay in several countries including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other Asian countries, for up to six months at a time. Photo: AP

Chinese tourists made more than 140 million trips outside the country in 2018, a 13.5 per cent increase from the previous year, spending an estimated US$120 billion, according to the China Tourism Academy, an official research institute under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

“In [the Thai cities of] Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are more and more Chinese who stay there to experience the local lifestyle, which is different from theirs in China. The life there is very different from that in China,” said Owen Zhu, who now lives in the Bangkok condo he bought last year.

“The freedom, culture and community are diversified. The quality of air, food and services are much higher than in first-tier cities in China, but the prices are more affordable.

“In Bangkok, in many international apartment complexes where foreigners live, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom [apartment] is about 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan.”

China’s richest regions are also home to the most blacklisted firms
A one-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen in southern China is twice as expensive, with rents continuing to rise rapidly.

There are global goods, and it is easy to socialise with different people from around the world,” Zhu added

“Many Chinese people around me, really, come to Thailand to live for a while and go back to China, but then come back again after a few months.”

Both Cai and Zhu said they discovered the new phenomenon among China’s middle class and decided it was a business opportunity.

Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP
Growing anxieties about air pollution, food and medicine safety and an increasingly authoritarian political climate are pushing middle class families to look for new ways to circumvent the obstacles so they can live outside China. Photo: AP

Zhu is in the process of registering a company in Bangkok and plans to build an online platform to service the needs of Chinese citizens living abroad who do not own property or have immigration status, especially members of the LGBT community.

Cai said dozens of Chinese families in the Yangtze River Delta had paid him to send their children to schools in New Zealand or Europe for around three or four weeks in the middle of the school year, while the parents rent villas in the area, with New Zealand and Toronto in Canada among the most popular destinations.

Last year, Zheng Feng, a single mother and freelance writer from Beijing, rented a small villa in Australia for a month for them, a friend and their children to escape Beijing’s pollution and experience life overseas.

“To be honest, I don’t have enough money to invest in a property or a green card in Australia. But it’s very affordable for me and my son to pay about 30,000 yuan (US$4,484) to live abroad for one or two months.” Zheng said.

China says 2018 growth was worth more than Australia’s whole GDP

Zheng will join the Xu family in Chiang Mai later this year and she is also planning a similar trip to England next year.

Zheng’s friend, Alice Yu, invested in an American EB-5 investor visa a few years ago, and plans to make one or two month-long trips abroad each year until her family is finally able to move to the United States.

Demand for the EB-5 investor visa in China seems to be waning given heightened uncertainty about the future of the programme and US immigration law in general under US President Donald Trump.

Approval for the visa can now take up to 10 years, resulting in a huge backlog that has further dampened interest and led to a significant dip in investment inflows into the US from foreign individuals.

A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP
A one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around bout 2,000 (US$298) to 3,000 yuan a month. Photo: AFP

“Maybe it will soon become standard for a real Chinese middle-class family to have the time and money to enjoy a long stay at a countryside villa overseas,” said Yu.

“Regardless of whether we can get a long-term visa for the United States, I want my children grow up in a global lifestyle and with more freedom than just growing up on the mainland. So do all wealthy and middle class Chinese families, I think.”

Karen Gao’s son started studying at an international school in Chiang Mai in June, at the cost of about 70,000 yuan (US$10,462) a year, after she quit her job as a public relations manager in Shenzhen and moved to Thailand on a tourist visa.

For better or worse? China’s complicated employment explained

“A few months each year for good air, good food and no censorship and internet control, but cheaper living costs compared to Beijing, it sounds like a really good deal to go,” said Gao, who has now been offered a guardian visa to accompany her son, who has already been given a student visa.

“In Shenzhen, I wasn’t able to get him into school because I had no [local] residence permit.

“It would be the best choice for us because we feel so uncertain and worried about investing and living in the mainland.”

Last year, Gao, like thousands of other private investors mostly middle class people living in first-tier cities, suffered significant losses when their investments in hotels and inns in Dali, Yunnan province, were demolished amid the local government’s campaign to curb pollution and improve the environment around Lake Erhai.

“We were robbed by the officials without proper compensation,” Gao said.

Source: SCMP


Tibet has 667,000 people engaged in environmental protection

LHASA, March 6 (Xinhua) — To conserve the ecosystem while eradicating poverty, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region hired 309,000 farmers and herders as forest rangers in 2018, bringing the total number of people engaged in environmental protection to 667,000.

Average annual subsidies in the jobs increased to 3,500 yuan (522 U.S. dollars), according to the regional department of ecology and environment.

Last year, Tibet invested 10.7 billion yuan in environmental protection funds, with 74,133 hectares of trees planted and forest coverage rising to 12.14 percent.

The region also invested 100 million yuan in enhancing the ecology along the upper reaches of the Yangtze, China’s longest river.

“Protecting the forests is equal to protecting our homeland,” said a local Tibetan forest ranger.

The implementation of a series of measures contributed to environmental protection, making Tibet one of the areas with the best ecological environment in the world, authorities said.

Source: Xinhua


Xi stresses strategic resolve in enhancing building of ecological civilization


Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, attends a panel discussion with his fellow deputies from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress in Beijing, capital of China, March 5, 2019. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)

BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) — President Xi Jinping on Tuesday stressed efforts to maintain strategic resolve in enhancing the building of an ecological civilization and to protect the country’s beautiful scenery in the northern border areas.

Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks when attending a panel discussion with his fellow deputies from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature.

The president called for intensified protection of the ecological system, urging people to fight resolutely against pollution.

The Party’s theory on an ecological civilization has been constantly enriched and improved since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, Xi said.

All localities and departments should earnestly implement the Party’s arrangement and requirements for building an ecological civilization, pushing it to a new level, Xi said.

Building Inner Mongolia into an important shield for ecological security in northern China is a strategic position set with full consideration of the country’s overall development and a major responsibility the region must shoulder, Xi said.

Fundamentally speaking, environmental protection and economic development are closely integrated and complement each other, Xi said.

In the Chinese economy’s transition from the phase of rapid growth to a stage of high-quality development, pollution control and environmental governance are two major tasks that must be accomplished, he added.

The country should explore a new path of high-quality development that prioritizes ecology and highlights green development, Xi said.

With its diversified natural forms including forests, grasslands, wetlands, rivers, lakes and deserts, Inner Mongolia features a comprehensive ecological system formed over a long period of time. Integrated measures should be taken in ecological protection and rehabilitation in the region, he said.

Xi underlined a resolute and effective fight to prevent and control pollution, saying prominent environmental issues the people are strongly concerned about must be addressed properly.

Source: Xinhua


Australia seeks clarification on China coal import ‘block’

Ships and containers at a port in Dalian, ChinaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionOne of China’s biggest ports is reported to have halted Australian coal imports

The Australian government says it is seeking an “urgent” clarification from Beijing over reports that a major Chinese port has halted imports of Australian coal.

Australia is a top supplier of coal to China, its biggest export market.

Beijing has not confirmed the reported halt in the port of Dalian, but called changes in such arrangements “normal”.

Canberra sought to play down speculation on Friday that the matter may be linked to bilateral tensions.

Australian officials said there was “confusion” over the situation, and they were consulting their Chinese counterparts.

“I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. The Australia-China trading relationship is exceptionally strong,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Fears about the issue have prompted a fall in the Australian dollar.

What has happened?

On Thursday, Reuters reported that China’s Dalian port region would not allow Australian coal to pass through customs.

The news agency quoted officials as saying that only Australian coal had been affected, with no limits placed on Indonesian and Russian shipments.

It said other Chinese ports had delayed Australian coal shipments in recent months.

A machine places coal in stockpiles at a coal port in Newcastle, AustraliaImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionCoal is Australia’s biggest export commodity

Australian trade officials said they had been notified of recent industry concerns about market access.

When asked about the reported halt, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang offered general comments that authorities sought “to safeguard the rights and interests of Chinese importers and protect the environment”.

What else is being debated?

Some security analysts in Australia have suggested it could be a tit-for-tat move by China, after Australia blocked tech giant Huawei from providing 5G technology.

“The banning of those coal shipments is a form of coercion against Australia. It’s punishment against states that resist China’s pressure,” said Dr Malcolm Davis, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Other recent tensions have emerged over allegations – denied by Beijing – of Chinese interference in Australian politics and society.

However others, including the head of the Reserve Bank of Australia, have suggested that China’s concerns about its own coal industry may be behind any such halts.

Blocking “a couple of months of coal exports” would not hurt the Australian economy, said Philip Lowe.

“If it were to be the sign of a deterioration in the underlying political relationship between Australia and China then that would be more concerning,” he said.

Mr Frydenberg said: “We can see these occasional interruptions to the smooth flow but that doesn’t necessarily translate to some of the consequences that aspects of the media might seek to leap to.”

Source: The BBC


Saving a river: Pollution in India’s holy Ganges makes it toxic

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Ganges river, holy to most Indians, flows from the western Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal through crowded cities, industrial hubs and some of the most populated areas in the world.

The river begins as pristine, clear waters in the icy heights of the tallest mountain range in the world. But pollution, untreated sewage and use by hundreds of millions of people transform parts of it into toxic sludge by the time it reaches the sea, about 2,525 kilometres downstream.

Personified by Hindus as the goddess Ganga, the river is the site of thousands of cremations and ash scatterings every day. The Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a nearly $3 billion five-year plan to clean up the river by 2020, but Reuters found last year that only a tenth of the funds had been used in the first two years of the project.

A Reuters team that investigated the state of the holy river has compiled data and photographs to portray its condition.

(Click here for the interactive graphic

The government maintains it is on track to clean up the river.

Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari said last month that the Ganges will be 70 percent to 80 percent clean within three months and 100 percent clean by March 2020. He did not give details on how the government had arrived at the figures and did not respond to requests for further comment.

Source: Reuters