Special Reports
China Pollution Crisis Undermining Growth

World Environment News
December 4, 2006

"China is dangerously near a crisis. The country's enormous environmental debt
will have to be paid one way or another," Pan Yue, deputy head of China's State
Environmental Protection Administration, said in a letter to the South China
Morning Post.

"(We must) begin paying this debt now ... rather than allowing it to accumulate
and, ultimately, threaten to bankrupt us all," he added.

Beijing has admitted to some of the environmental degradation caused by three
decades of pursuing rapid economic growth at almost any cost, but the picture it
painted was still incomplete and China needed action, not rhetoric, Pan said.
Realistic estimates put environmental damage at 8 to 13 percent of China's
national income each year, meaning the cost of pollution off-set almost all of
China's economic gains since the late 1970s, he said.

The costs of pollution are being borne by ordinary Chinese.

"Scarcely anyone bothers to consider the environmental costs to -- or rights of
-- the country's poor and powerless," Pan said.

A quarter of the population drink substandard water, a third of urbanites
breathe badly polluted air and China has a major water pollution incident every
two days on average, he added.

Pan urged the government to introduce legal mechanisms to make polluters pay and
reward those who protect the environment.

He also called on Beijing to help unify the environmental watchdogs scattered
across different sectors, and establish a system to monitor officials'
performance in environmental as well as economic fields.


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