One third of nation hit by acid rain
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-28 05:26

One third of China's land mass was affected by acid rain last year, Sheng Huaren, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said in a report to top legislators on Saturday.

Sheng told NPC Standing Committee members that in some regions of the country all rainfall was acidic.

His report was based on lawmakers' inspection of environmental protection efforts in 15 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities from May to June.

With 26 million tons of sulphur dioxide discharged last year 27 per cent more than in 2000 China has become the world's biggest sulphur dioxide polluter.

Acid rain poses a major threat to soil and food safety, he said.

Sheng said sulphur dioxide emissions were double the acceptable environmental limit, and coal-burning power stations and coking plants were the main culprits.

According to the report, nearly 650 out of 680 coking plants in North China's Shanxi, the country's major coal mining province, discharged excessive sulphur dioxide.

Environmental inspectors advised the central government to take decisive action to curb high energy consumption and high polluting industries, by restricting land and loan approvals and raising pollution control standards.

"Small coking plants and coal-burning power stations should be shut down or restructured," Sheng said.

Despite the gloomy statistics, chairman of the NPC Environmental and Resources Protection Committee Mao Rubai remained upbeat that Beijing would fulfil its environmental obligations for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The municipal government will step up pollution control efforts in the next two years, according to Mao.

"First of all, environmental protection investment will continue to rise on the current basis of 18 billion yuan (US$2.3 billion) per year," he told a press conference on the sidelines of the session of the NPC Standing Committee, which closed yesterday.

Environmental investment in Beijing accounts for nearly 3 per cent of the city's gross domestic product. "The proportion is among the highest in China," he said.

"Secondly, Beijing will continue to expand use of clean energy," Mao said.

Clean energy such as natural gas counts for 57 per cent of the city's total energy consumption, sources said.

"Third, the Beijing municipal government has decided to close and relocate polluting companies," he said.

For example Beijing Shougang steelworks has been moved to Tangshan in North China's Hebei Province.

Meanwhile, Beijing will further treat pollution caused by vehicle exhaust emissions. The Euro III environment standard has been adopted in the city.

Environmental improvements have been witnessed in Beijing since 1998.

Sixty-four per cent of days last year had good air quality, 36 per cent higher than 1998.

The amount of sulphur dioxide dropped 29 per cent compared with seven years ago.

(China Daily 08/28/2006 page2)


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