Archive for ‘air pollution’

27/06/2019

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

schemes.

“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

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10/03/2019

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

15/12/2018

Is Delhi’s air causing lung cancer?

Air pollution levels in the Indian capital have been rising alarmingly in recent years. Today, in some parts of the city, breathing in the open air equals smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

Go to next video: Hair-raising drive through Delhi smog

03/12/2018

Air pollution: NGT slaps 25 crore fine on Delhi government

The green panel said that even after more than four-and-a-half years, the complaint of the aggrieved parties is that the pollution caused by the unregulated handling of plastic continues to remain unabated.

It had asked the chief secretary to hold a joint meeting with the persons considered responsible for compliance. (File photo: PTI)

The National Green Tribunal Monday asked the Delhi government to deposit Rs 25 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for their failure to curb the problem of pollution in the city.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also asked the AAP government to furnish a performance guarantee of Rs 25 crore with the apex pollution monitoring body to ensure that there is no further lapse in this regard.

It said despite its clear directions, there is hardly any action for compliance of orders of the tribunal and pollution continues unabated in blatant violation of law and under the nose of the authorities “who have hardly done anything concrete except furnishing excuses and helplessness”.

The green panel said that even after more than four-and-a-half years, the complaint of the aggrieved parties is that the pollution caused by the unregulated handling of plastic continues to remain unabated.

The tribunal was hearing pleas filed by Mundka village resident Satish Kumar and Tikri-Kalan native Mahavir Singh alleging pollution caused by burning of plastic, leather, rubber, motor engine oil and other waste materials and continuous operation of illegal industrial units dealing with such articles on agricultural lands in Mundka and Neelwal villages.

The tribunal had earlier directed the Delhi chief secretary to co-ordinate with the concerned municipal authorities, police authorities and other officers responsible for compliance of orders of this tribunal already passed referred to ensure compliance at the ground-level forthwith.

It had asked the chief secretary to hold a joint meeting with the persons considered responsible for compliance and till the orders remain un-complied, continue to hold such meetings at least once a month.

“It will be open to the chief secretary to seek feedback from concerned inhabitants about the ground situation,” the NGT had said.

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04/01/2017

India’s double first in climate battle – BBC News

Two world-leading clean energy projects have opened in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

A £3m industrial plant is capturing the CO2 emissions from a coal boiler and using the CO2 to make valuable chemicals. It is a world first.

And just 100km away is the world’s biggest solar farm, making power for 150,000 homes on a 10 sq km site.

The industrial plant appears especially significant as it offers a breakthrough by capturing CO2 without subsidy.

Built at a chemical plant in the port city of Tuticorin, it is projected to save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by incorporating them into the recipes for baking soda and other chemicals.

Here’s how it works:

The plant operates a coal-fired boiler to make steam for its chemical operations.CO2 emissions from the boiler’s chimney are stripped out by a fine mist of a new patented chemical.

A stream of CO2 is fed into the chemicals plant as an ingredient for baking soda and other compounds with many uses, including the manufacturing of glass, detergents and sweeteners.

Zero emissions

The owner of the chemicals plant, Ramachadran Gopalan, told a BBC Radio 4 documentary: “I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet. I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.”

He says his operation has now almost zero emissions. He hopes soon to install a second coal boiler to make more CO2 to synthesise fertiliser.

The chemical used in stripping the CO2 from the flue gas was invented by two young Indian chemists. They failed to raise Indian finance to develop it, but their firm, Carbonclean Solutions, working with the Institute of Chemical Technology at Mumbai and Imperial College in London, got backing from the UK’s entrepreneur support scheme.

Their technique uses a form of salt to bond with CO2 molecules in the boiler chimney. The firm says it is more efficient than typical amine compounds used for the purpose.

The plant is projected to save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year

They say it also needs less energy, produces less alkaline waste and allows the use of a cheaper form of steel – all radically reducing the cost of the whole operation.

The firm admits its technology of Carbon Capture and Utilisation won’t cure climate change, but says it may provide a useful contribution by gobbling up perhaps 5-10% of the world’s emissions from coal.

Lord Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell, and now director and head of the UK government’s carbon capture advisory group, told the BBC: “We have to do everything we can to reduce the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels and it is great news that more ways are being found of turning at least some of the CO2 into useful products.”

Solar farm

Meanwhile, the nearby giant Kamuthi solar plant offers a marker for India’s ambition for a rapid expansion in renewables.

The world’s largest solar farm at Kamuthi in southern IndiaIt is truly enormous; from the tall observation tower, the ranks of black panels stretch almost to the horizon.Prime Minister Modi is offering subsidies for a plan to power 60 million homes with solar by 2022 and aims for 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

For large-scale projects, the cost of new solar power in India is now cheaper than coal. But solar doesn’t generate 24/7 on an industrial scale, so India has adopted a “more of everything” approach to energy.

The firm behind the solar plant, Adani, is also looking to create Australia’s biggest coal mine, which it says will provide power for up to 100 million people in India. Renewables, it says, can’t answer India’s vast appetite for power to lift people out of poverty.

Will India stick to its renewables promises with Donald Trump as US president?And questions have been raised recently as to whether India will stick to its renewables promises now President-elect Donald Trump may be about to scrap climate targets for the US.

At the recent Marrakech climate conference, China, the EU and many developing countries pledged to forge ahead with emissions-cutting plans regardless of US involvement. But India offered no such guarantee.

Some environmentalists are not too worried: they think economics may drive India’s clean energy revolution.

Source: India’s double first in climate battle – BBC News

22/12/2016

China Sends Carbon Fight Into Orbit – China Real Time Report – WSJ

As the climate-change community watches whether President-elect Donald Trump will retreat from U.S. greenhouse-gas commitments, China signaled it is charging ahead, launching a satellite to monitor rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

The move comes after a week when a thick blanket of smog hung over much of northern China, forcing the government to shut schools and businesses.

The launch of the satellite known as TanSat, reported early Thursday by state media, marks a renewed effort by the world’s biggest emitter to better understand and track the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. It also reflects the bigger role China aims to play in shaping the global response to climate change at a time the incoming U.S. administration voices skepticism about the Paris accord enacted this year to control and reduce carbon emissions.

“It’s a significant step in terms of being an indicator of China investing large amounts of resources and energy to understand the science behind climate change and carbon emissions,” said Ranping Song, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The 1,400 pound satellite will orbit more than 400 miles above the earth for the next three years, said Yin Zengshan, the TanSat project’s chief designer, according to Xinhua News Agency, and follows similar projects by the U.S. and Japan to track global carbon levels from monitoring in space.

The satellite—in development for nearly six years—collects independent carbon data. Loaded with sensitive equipment that reads changes in atmospheric CO2 levels to within 1%, TanSat will take carbon readings every 16 days.

As a result, it could help “double check” emissions data reported by countries world-wide, said Mr. Song. Emissions accounting today still largely relies on estimates from energy-consumption statistics. The satellite readings would be a source of independent data for Chinese policy makers.

China has been trying to raise its image in the global climate-change debate, wanting to appear active in aiding global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather than serving as an obstacle. It has already pledged to peak and begin reducing its carbon emissions by 2030 as part of a deal reached with the U.S. in 2014. Yet it also comes against a more complicated backdrop today, with Mr. Trump’s incoming administration promising to boost production of polluting fossil fuels including coal.

Mr. Trump’s pledge ahead of the election to “cancel” the U.S. commitment to the global climate pact that entered force this year has worried Chinese officials. Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate-change affairs, has urged Mr. Trump to adhere to what China views as a global trend toward cutting emissions.

Under Mr. Trump, many in the U.S. environmental community fear funding for climate-change research could be hacked. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has even vowed to launch the state’s own monitoring satellite if budgets get chopped.

“If Trump turns off the satellite,” Mr. Brown said this month, “California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect the data.”

In effect, the Chinese satellite could help add more “eyes in the sky” for monitoring carbon levels in the atmosphere, and serve as a complement to the existing data already being collected by the U.S. and Japan. Xinhua quoted officials as saying China was prepared to share its new data with researchers world-wide.

“Since only the United States and Japan have carbon-monitoring satellites, it is hard for us to see firsthand data,” Xinhua quoted Zhang Peng, vice director of China’s National Satellite Meteorological Center, as saying. “The satellite has world-wide scope and will improve data collection.”

Source: China Sends Carbon Fight Into Orbit – China Real Time Report – WSJ

13/12/2016

Can jet engines clean up Delhi’s foul air? – BBC News

Sometime next year, if all goes well, a retired jet engine will be mounted on a flatbed trailer and taken to a coal-fired power plant in Delhi.

With the exhaust nozzle pointed at the sky, the engine will be placed near the smokestack and turned on.

As the engine roars to life, it will generate a nozzle speed of 400 metres per second (1,440km/h; 900mph), which is more or less the speed of sound.

The exhaust will create powerful updrafts that will, to put it simply, blast the emissions from the plant to higher altitudes, above a meteorological phenomenon called temperature inversion, where a layer of cold air is held in place by a warmer “lid” trapping smog.

The jet exhaust will act as a “virtual chimney”, drawing in and transporting the smog, which makes Delhi’s air some of the most toxic in the world. A single jet engine can deal with emissions from a 1,000 megawatt power plant.

Temperature inversion

Can Delhi ever clean up its foul air?

So can jet engines help clean up Delhi’s foul air? A team of researchers from the US, India and Singapore believes so.

“This could lead to a successful implementation of a new technology for smog mitigation all over the world,” the lead researcher, Moshe Alamaro, an aeronautical engineer and atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells me.

“The programme could use retired and commercial engines and has the possibility of adding value to numerous retired propulsion systems available.”

Delhi is an ideal candidate for this experiment. The widespread use of festival fireworks, the burning of rubbish by the city’s poor, plus farm waste from around the city, vehicular emissions and construction dust, all contribute to the city’s thick “pea-soup” fogs.

The jet engines will be mounted on a flatbed trailer

Things get worse in winter: last month, schools were shut, construction and demolition work suspended, people wore face masks and were asked to work from home.

The move came after levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles that can affect the lungs – soared to over 90 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization and 15 times the federal government’s norms.

Carrying out the jet engine experiment outside a coal-fired electricity plant makes sense as coal accounts for more than 60% of India’s power generation. In two years, the country could surpass China as the biggest importer of thermal coal.

Coal-fired energy may be linked to more than 100,000 premature deaths and millions of cases of asthma and respiratory ailments. Also, emissions from a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant are equivalent to emissions from roughly 500,000 cars.

Scientists say that jet engines were used in the Soviet Union 45 years ago to enhance rainfall.

“They achieved some success,” says Dr Alamaro. “As far as I know nobody tried using jet engines for smog mitigation.”

Noise concerns

Farmers have also rented helicopters to hover over their fields to “agitate and disrupt the inversions” to protect their crops.

Next month, Dr Alamaro will join some of India’s top scientists and collaborators from government agencies at a workshop to plan the experiment.

There are concerns: noise from the jet engine, for example.”In the beginning,” he says, “the jet engine will be tested in remote location and not necessarily near a power plant, to observe the jet properties and for optimisation.”

The scientists say that fears about emissions from jet engines fouling the air are unfounded as their emissions “are much cleaner than that of the power plant per unit of power”.

There are reportedly offers of retired jet engines from air forces in India and the US for the experiment.

Scientists are talking to Tata Group, a private power producer, to use one of their plants for a site for the experiment.

Before the test, meteorological data on the area, along with information on frequency of smog will be essential. Drones will be used before and after the experiment.

Coal-powered thermal power plants meet most of India’s energy needs

Critics of the planned experiment doubt whether the jet exhausts will be powerful enough to create a virtual chimney and blow out the smog, and question whether expensive jet engines can be used on a large scale to control air pollution in a vast city such as Delhi.

But Dr Alamaro is optimistic.

“Each new technology should start with the least resistant path for success,” he says.”The concentration of emission from coal is very high near the power plant.”

So a jet engine that elevates this emission is more effective near the power plant than somewhere else in the city that is plagued by smog.

“That said, we also plan to try to elevate the less concentrated smog in and around the city by jet systems.”

For example, the jet system can be placed near highways where vehicle emission is high, so the jet is more effective than somewhere else in the city.

If successful, Dr Alamaro says, this method can be used “anywhere and anytime, away from a power plant and during normal atmospheric conditions” to control air pollution.

Fairly soon, we may know if jet engines can really help to clean Delhi’s foul air.

Source: Can jet engines clean up Delhi’s foul air? – BBC News

06/10/2016

Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

At a time of Brexit and talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it seems the Chinese are embracing international engagement.

They think their country’s power is rising, that their living standards will keep improving, that corruption is being cleaned up and that air pollution should be fixed even if it means slowing down economic growth.

These are the views which have emerged from a broad survey from Washington-based the Pew Research Center.

Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.

When asked about economic globalisation, 60% of people said it is a good thing and only 23% think it is bad for China.

While some China watchers are warning that this country’s mounting local government debt could mean that a hard landing is on the way, Chinese people don’t appear to share this pessimism.

Nearly 90% of respondents amongst this group of 3,154, interviewed face-to-face in China earlier this year, think that the state of their country’s economy is either “very good” or “somewhat good”.

GETTY IMAGES – Chinese people seem to remain optimistic

Looking into the future things will apparently get even better: 76% of people think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 70% said their personal financial situation will improve and eight out of 10 people believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

Bread and butter issues

It’s not that people are without concerns.

“Corrupt officials” is at the top of the table when it comes to people’s worries (83% said this was a “very big” or “moderately big” problem) and yet here too we see optimism.

Some 64% of them said that President Xi Jinping‘s massive anti-corruption drive would improve the situation over the next five years.

Running down the concern list, an alarmingly high number of people see income inequality and the safety of food and medicine as “very big” problems.

This should give the Chinese Communist Party pause for concern.

If you enjoy monopoly power on the basis that you are delivering “socialism with Chinese characteristics” then a small group of ultra-rich driving around in their sports cars and showing off their wealth while most struggle to pay the rent is surely at odds with your central message.

Then, if ordinary Chinese people can’t even trust the food and medicine they are giving their children, the possibility for social unrest over bread and butter issues is looming large.

The environment also emerges as a massive challenge with water and air pollution at the front of people’s minds.

Air pollution is so bad in China that half of those polled said their country should fight air pollution harder even if it means sacrificing economic growth.

GETTY IMAGES – Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog

Only 24% saw air deterioration as a necessary price to pay.

When it comes to the war of ideas in the top echelons of power here, those ministers in favour of tougher environmental protection measures could do worse than table this research.

A “major threat” to China?

The South China Sea and other geo-strategic tensions offer some of the most bleak opinions.

Nearly six out of 10 people think that territorial pressures with neighbours could lead to military conflict; 77% say their way of life needs to be protected from “foreign influence” (up by 13 percentage points since 2002) and only 22% say China should help other nations.

Regarding relations with rival superpower the United States people views are complex and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Around half of Chinese respondents rated the US favourably but more than half think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

About 45% said that US power and influence poses a “major threat” to China. In fact the US came in at number one as the top international threat to the country.

GETTY IMAGES – More than half of Chinese people think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power

It’s interesting that some would see the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” as a greater threat than say jihadist extremist groups just across the western border promoting bloody conflict in China’s vast Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Either way, whatever the perceived threat, China is seen as becoming ever more important and with ever more power at its disposal.Information is being controlled here ever more tightly – whether it is coming from the traditional media or sources online – so some analysts will see these views as the inevitable result of messages being delivered to the Chinese people by their government.

This may the be case but, in a world where politicians in various countries are accused of exploiting people’s fear and insecurity, could it be that a quarter of the globe’s population are going around with a smile on their dial because every day they look out the window and to them it just gets better and better?

Source: Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

30/09/2016

The human and animal costs of India’s unregulated coal industry – BBC News

India is one of the largest producers of coal in the world and more than half of its commercial energy needs are met by coal.

But unregulated mining has caused serious health and environmental issues, and led to growing conflicts between elephants and humans.

In the coal-rich central state of Chhattisgarh, for example, fly ash has caused respiratory problems and serious illnesses like tuberculosis among people, but their troubles don’t end there.

Forests are being cleared for coal mining and wild elephants are entering villages in search of food and attacking people.

Photojournalist Subrata Biswas has documented the fallout of India’s dependence on coal.

“As thousands of acres of forest land are destroyed to mining, foraging elephants attracted by the crops in the fields often enter villages, resulting in an alarmingly high number of human-elephant conflict situations,” says Biswas.

Officials estimate elephants have been responsible for 8,657 incidents of property damage and 99,152 incidents of crop damage in Chhattisgarh between 2005 and 2014.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“We were sleeping when the elephants broke into our room. Somehow we managed to escape but I fractured my left leg when a large part of the wall fell on my leg. My husband saved my life,” says Rujri Khalkho, 70, whose home was damaged by a herd of wild elephants almost a year ago.

A compensation of 10,000 rupees ($149; £114) has not been enough to repair her house or pay for her medical care.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Deaths of elephants due to electrocution have become common in the state.In Dharamjaigarh, the most affected area, officials have recorded 30 elephant and 75 human deaths so far.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

In 2009, Kanti Bai Sau, 40, lost her home and farm to an open-cast coal mine.

She was promised compensation of 200,000 rupees ($2,980; £2,290) and a job to a family member, but received neither. Her son died last year of respiratory complications.

“There is no fresh air to breath, fresh water to drink. Coal has usurped everything here.”

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“We lived next to this mine for almost 10 years and watched helplessly as our wells went dry, forests disappeared and fields become unproductive,” says Girja Bai Chauhan.

“We have lost almost eight acres of our fields to the mine and authorities haven’t fulfilled a single promise they made while acquiring land. They sent us into a dark future and unhealthy environment to live and breathe in.”

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Pipelines carry fly ash slurry from a local thermal power power plant in Korba to a fly ash pond.

Environment activists say that every year approximately 50 million tonnes of fly ash is generated by power plants in Chhattishgarh but not even the half of this amount have been reutilized to reduce the pollution from fly ash.

Fly ash is known to contain trace elements such as arsenic, barium and mercury among others, and unlined ponds like this could be polluting groundwater by leaching.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“The ash is everywhere. When the wind blows, everything is coated with a layer of white grey ash. The road, ponds, our houses, sometimes even our spectacles get coated with a fine layer of the ash,” says Biswas.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Rohit Rathia, 55, suffers from tuberculosis.He lives in a village next to an open cast mine where lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), silicosis and tuberculosis have become common ailments.

Source: The human and animal costs of India’s unregulated coal industry – BBC News

29/09/2016

China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters

China’s state planner has punished hundreds of coal and steel companies by forcing them to close or cut output for violating environmental and safety regulations, the latest effort to crack down on the country’s heavily polluting industries.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) forced two steel companies to shut completely, 29 firms to halt production and another 23 to curb output, it said in a statement on Thursday. The closures and curbs followed a nationwide inspection of more than 1,000 steel makers in the world’s top producer.

Among more than 4,600 coal mines inspected, the NDRC has revoked safety certificates for 28 coal mines and forced another 286 coal mines to halt production, it added.

The planner did not identify or name the companies, or give details on how the companies broke the rules and how long the penalties will be in place.

Beyond the safety and environment rules, the NDRC also listed other infractions such as violations of energy consumption rules or quality standards.

The statement reflects the government’s continued push to force ageing mills and mines to comply with tough new pollution rules by meeting emission standards and installing appropriate monitoring equipment.

China’s unwieldy coal and steel industries are considered two of the biggest sources of pollution in the country.

The government is targeting coal output cuts of 500 million tonnes in the next three to five years.

Source: China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters