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Group slams award for big tobacco

Updated: 2012-07-19 07:38
By Zheng Xin ( China Daily)

An anti-smoking organization in Beijing is seeking the recall of an award presented to the China National Tobacco Corp in June in recognition of its contributions to the environment.

The China Green Foundation said on Wednesday that the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control had sent them a letter asking them to rescind the award to the company, which also serves as a government bureau, "in consideration of the health damage and environmental pollution imposed by the tobacco company".

"This behavior is totally against the spirit of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control," said Suo Chao, the association's media manager. "It is essential that the foundation recalls the award and promise not to confer awards to such companies in the future."

Fei Yong, a publicity official of the China Green Foundation, which presented the award along with the National Forestation Commission and State Forestry Administration, defended the decision to give the award to the company.

"The honor is given to the firms that have made a contribution to improving the country's environment, and it has nothing to do with what industry a company is in," Fei said.

Ignoring a company's contribution simply because of some adverse effects it has on society or the environment isn't fair, he said.

However, Fei said, the foundation will discuss the request and make a decision soon.

Suo said that because the tobacco leaf needs more time to mature and more agrochemicals than other common crops, the industry requires a greater dosage of chemical fertilizers, which in turn hardens the soil and turns the fertile land into barren field.

His opinions were echoed by Jiang Gaoming, professor at the Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Tobacco requires a greater dose of nitrogenous fertilizer, potash fertilizer and phosphatic fertilizer to boost the growth of its leaves," he said. "However, some 70 percent of the chemicals applied usually end up polluting the soil and underground water."

Suo said China National Tobacco, the largest manufacturer of tobacco products in the world, also uses 100,000 tons of paper each year on cigarettes, equivalent to 2 million trees, which may lead to serious energy dissipation, water loss and soil erosion.

In response to the appeal, Fei said the award was issued primarily based on the contributions and donations of China National Tobacco to environmental improvement in the country over the years.

The award, established in 2010, is presented to companies that have made outstanding contributions to improving the environment in China. Twenty firms, including China National Tobacco, received the award in 2010, according to the foundation.

"The China National Tobacco donated 5 million yuan ($790,000) in 2011 for forestation and ecological poverty alleviation in Northwest China's Gansu province, North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Hebei province, which have improved the local environment," Fei said.

It is inevitable that enterprises impose some damage to the environment during development, but it's not an excuse not to ignore its contributions and achievements, he said.