Archive for ‘Pollution’

24/05/2019

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.

STEEL TOWN PAIN

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.

SHUTTING DOWN THE BOOTMAKERS

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

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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

06/03/2019

Xi stresses strategic resolve in enhancing building of ecological civilization

(TWO SESSIONS)CHINA-BEIJING-XI JINPING-NPC-PANEL DISCUSSION (CN)

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

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

03/10/2016

India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement, submits instrument of ratification at UN headquarters – Times of India

With the US, China and now India signing the accord, other nations should not hesitate to join them. On any case, thes three account for the vast majority of the pollution, so even if no one else signs up, its good news for Mother Gaia.

India formally joined the Paris Climate Change Agreement by submitting its instrument of ratification+ at UN headquarters in New York on Sunday – the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The instrument of ratification was deposited by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin.

By putting Gandhi seal on the climate deal, the country will now urge the global community to adopt ‘Gandhian way of life’ (shun extravagant lifestyles) to reduce their carbon footprints and protect the earth from adverse impact of climate change.

India will articulate its point vigorously during the next climate conference (COP22) at Marrakech in Morocco, beginning November 7.

“India had led from front to ensure the inclusion of climate justice and sustainable lifestyles in the Paris Agreement+ . We will put across this view based on Gandhian lifestyle in Morocco”, said environment minister Anil Madhav Dave.

Spelling out next course of action after India formally joined the Agreement, Dave said, “It is important that apart from emission cuts, we also focus on measures that involve broader participation. People in developed countries live extravagant lifestyles with high carbon footprint.

“Simple everyday changes in lifestyles, when practiced by a large number of people around the globe, collectively will make a huge impact”.

Source: India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement, submits instrument of ratification at UN headquarters – Times of India

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

27/06/2016

China city shuts down waste burning plant over protests | Reuters

A city in central China is shutting down a waste incineration project, it said, after thousands of people protested against the plant over fears it will damage the environment and residents’ health.

Photos posted on social media, which could not be verified by Reuters, showed dozens of riot police marching in the city of Xiantao, located in Hubei province in central China.

About 10,000 people protested in Xiantao on Sunday, the state-backed Global Times reported, citing a local resident, even after the local government said it planned to suspend the project on Sunday morning.

Another resident told Reuters by phone on Monday that the protests continued, and several protesters were injured in clashes with riot police.

“There are hundreds of police here because of the demonstrations,” said the resident, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The city government called on residents to refrain from taking “extreme actions” and spreading rumors in a statement on its official microblog.

Tens of thousands of “mass incidents” – the usual euphemism for protests – happen in China each year, spurred by grievances over issues such as corruption, pollution and illegal land grabs, unnerving the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

Last June, thousands of people protested in Jinshan, about 60 km (37 miles) from China’s commercial hub of Shanghai, against plans to build a chemical plant in the district.

A Xiantao official said that the planned plant’s emissions of dioxin, a toxic compound, would have been in line with European Union standards, state media reported.

Source: China city shuts down waste burning plant over protests | Reuters

31/05/2016

China releases new action plan to tackle soil pollution | Reuters

China aims to curb worsening soil pollution by 2020 and stabilize and improve soil quality by 2030, the cabinet said in an action plan published on Tuesday.

The central government will set up a special fund to tackle soil pollution, as well as a separate fund to help upgrade technology and equipment in the heavy metal sector, the cabinet said in a statement on its website (www.gov.cn).

The government will also continue to eliminate outdated heavy metal capacity, the cabinet said.

Last year, the environment minister said 16 percent of China’s soil exceeded state pollution limits. Treatment costs for heavy metal or chemical contamination are high, and China has struggled to attract private funds for soil remediation.

According to Reuters calculations, the cost of making all of China’s contaminated land fit for crops or livestock would be around 5 trillion yuan ($760 billion), based on average industry estimates of the cost of treating one hectare.

Analysts have estimated the soil remediation market could be worth as much as 1 trillion yuan, but authorities have struggled to determine who should pay for rehabilitating contaminated land. Much of the responsibility for the costs now lies with impoverished local governments.

Researchers with Guohai Securities said earlier this year that there are currently 100 key soil remediation projects under way in China with an estimated total cost of 500 billion yuan. With no natural profit motive to encourage private companies to get involved, the clean-up programs have relied mostly on government funding.

China’s five-year plan published in March said the country would give priority to cleaning up contaminated soil used in agriculture. It promised also to strengthen soil pollution monitoring systems and promote new clean-up technologies.

Lawmakers said during the annual session of parliament in March that the country would introduce legislation to help tackle soil pollution by next year.

Companies involved in the sector include Beijing Orient Landscape and Ecology, Tus-Sound Environmental Resources, Beijing Originwater Technology and Guangxi Bossco Environmental Protection Technology.

($1 = 6.5836 Chinese yuan)

Source: China releases new action plan to tackle soil pollution | Reuters

30/11/2015

Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin | Reuters

The capitals of the world’s two most populous nations, China and India, were blanketed in hazardous, choking smog on Monday as climate change talks began in Paris, where leaders of both countries are among the participants.

China’s capital Beijing maintained an “orange” pollution alert, the second-highest level, on Monday, closing highways, halting or suspending construction and prompting a warning to residents to stay indoors.

The choking pollution was caused by the “unfavourable” weather, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Sunday. Emissions in northern China soar over winter as urban heating systems are switched on and low wind speeds have meant that polluted air has not been dispersed.

In New Delhi, the U.S. embassy’s monitoring station recorded an air quality index of 372, which puts air pollution levels well into “hazardous” territory. A thick smog blanketed the city and visibility was down to about 200 yards (metres).

Air quality in the city of 16 million is usually bad in winter, when coal fires are lit by the poor to ward off the cold. Traffic fumes, too, are trapped over the city by a temperature inversion and the lack of wind.

However, the government has not raised any alarm over the current air quality and no advisories have been issued to the public. Thirty thousand runners took part in a half marathon at the weekend, when pollution levels were just as high.

In Beijing, a city of 22.5 million, the air quality index in some parts of the city soared to 500, its highest possible level. At levels higher than 300, residents are encouraged to remain indoors, according to government guidelines.

The hazardous air underscores the challenge facing the government as it battles pollution caused by the coal-burning power industry and will raise questions about its ability to clean up its economy at the talks in Paris.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are both in Paris and both were scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday to give momentum to the two-week negotiations.

Source: Smog chokes Chinese, Indian capitals as climate talks begin | Reuters

23/06/2015

China’s Air is Much Worse Than India’s, World Bank Report Shows – China Real Time Report – WSJ

India’s capital may have the worst air quality in the world on some days, but a new report shows that nationally, the air in the world’s second-most-populous country is far less polluted than in China.

In fact, China’s air is more than twice as dirty as India’s, according to recently released estimates by the World Bank.

The bank’s “Little Green Data Book” of environmental indicators, unveiled last week, included a new gauge of air pollution. To the standard measures of environmental health–including forest cover and carbon emissions–it added PM 2.5 levels, which measure airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns.

These tiny pollutants are microscopic and can enter the lungs and even pollute a person’s blood stream. They are linked to severe health problems including lung cancer.

“These data show that in many parts of the world exposure to air pollution is increasing at an alarming rate and has become the main environmental threat to health,” the forward of the World Bank book said. “Exposure to ambient PM 2.5 pollution in 2010 resulted in more than 3.2 million premature deaths globally.”

Using this measure, India’s air is far from clean. The World Bank data put the South Asian nation’s annual mean PM 2.5 at 32 micrograms per cubic meter. That’s three times the bank’s recommended level of 10 or less, but in line with the global average. It is also well below China’s mean annual exposure of 73 micrograms per cubic meter. .

Of the 200 countries in the book, only the United Arab Emirates did worse than China.

India’s environmental rankings fared better than China’s in other categories as well. India’s energy use and carbon emissions per capita were less than one third of those in China.

India’s PM 2.5 air pollution average is on par with other fast-growing Asian countries, but will likely rise as its economy expands.

The World Bank data showed that air quality deteriorates as countries evolve from lower income levels and become more affluent. Air only starts to improve once countries attain high-income status, which the World Bank defines as having gross national income per capita of $12,746 or more.

via China’s Air is Much Worse Than India’s, World Bank Report Shows – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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