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World Bank Urged to Publish China Pollution Figures


Reuters
July 17, 2007


A senior U.S. lawmaker on Monday
urged World Bank President Robert Zoellick to release mortality
figures the congressman said were omitted from a draft bank report
on the effects of pollution in China.

Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, in a letter to Zoellick
made public on Monday, applauded the bank's efforts to investigate
the effects of pollution problems in China.

But Frank said he was troubled to read that Chinese health and
environment officials suppressed estimates of the nearly
half-million people who die prematurely each year from breathing
polluted air and drinking dirty water, and the parts of China that
were worst hit.

"I write to urge you to release this data in order to achieve the
report's goal of making public the best and most inclusive
information available on the effects of environmental problems,"
said Frank, who is chairman of the House Financial Services
Committee.

"The world community can only seek solutions to global problems of
this type when governments and the multilateral institutions operate
without censorship of relevant information that affects the global
community," he added.

Frank has led U.S. congressional hearings this year on the World
Bank and, separately, on Washington's dispute with Beijing over the
value of the Chinese currency, which the U.S. has said is
undervalued.

While the World Bank said a final report would be out soon, a
conference version of the study on the bank's Web site said about
460,000 Chinese die prematurely each year from breathing polluted
air and drinking dirty water.

The study, conducted in partnership with the Chinese government,
said some estimates of the physical and economic cost of pollution
had been omitted because of uncertainties about calculation methods
and their application.

Asked for his reaction, Zoellick did not directly answer Frank's
complaint but said it was important to discuss results of reports
produced by the bank.

"I'm pleased that the bank has encouraged the preparation of the
most comprehensive report by far on the human health effect and
economic costs of environmental pollution ever undertaken in China,
done by a joint team of Chinese and international experts," he said
in a statement.

"Like Chairman Frank, we want to encourage an open description and
discussion of results, as is the case for reports the World Bank
produces on its own. Even in this joint draft, mortality estimates
can be calculated on the basis of the statistics presented."

China is home to some of the world's 20 most polluted cities and is
redoubling efforts to clean up the environment.

The authorities are closing down dirty industrial plants, raising
car fuel-efficiency standards and tweaking taxes to discourage
energy-intensive production.

 

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