China / Society

Focus lacking on rural pollution, expert says

By Luo Wangshu and Zheng Jinran ( Updated: 2015-03-18 13:05

Focus lacking on rural pollution, expert says

Woman wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Widespread rural pollution is a major source of pollution for the Yangtze River, the country's longest river, a top legislator said.

"Since the reservoir at the Three Gorges Dam started storing water, the water quality of the mainstream Yangtze River has remained the same, even better. However, minor branches of the river have been polluted by waste from rural areas," said Xie Deti, a National People's Congress deputy and dean of College of Resources and Environment at Southwest University in Chongqing.

"For instance, there is no special treatment for chemical fertilizer, poultry manure, sewage and garbage in rural areas, especially the small farms, which generate severe and direct pollution to water and rivers," he added.

In recent years, authorities' attention has been drawn to industrial and city pollution.

"Chongqing has established many facilities to treat sewage and waste in cities, including the counties and townships, to centrally and efficiently process waste and control pollution," Xie said, adding that less attention has been paid to the rural areas.

As an environmental expert, Xie has studied pollution for more than a decade and said there is no technical difficulty in solving the problem.

"The importance is to raise public awareness. It is everyone's obligation, including the country, corporations and farmers," said Xie, who proposed providing subsidies to farmers for pollution control.

In rural areas, the majority of garbage could be composted or broken down in the villages, with only plastic bags and batteries needing to be recycled, he said.

"Farmers would not throw away anything that they could trade in for money," Xie said, so if the government could establish a system to pay for used bottles, batteries or plastic bags, farmers would never toss them out.

It would also establish a system to reduce pollution and establish environmental awareness among farmers.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has launched a national project in rural areas to build garbage collection areas and sewage treatment plants to reduce the direct pollution to the surroundings, spending 1 million yuan ($160,000) in one village.

By the end of last year, the ministry had invested more than 25.5 billion yuan for 59,000 villages, with more than 110 million rural residents receiving benefits.

However, Xie said, the fancy facilities do not solve the problem.

"For instance, there are no resources to clean the garbage collection areas every day. On the contrary, the filled refuse landfills have grown into new sources of pollution," Xie added.

Hebei province, while suffering severe air pollution, also shares the problem of rural pollution with the Three Gorges area.

"Some pollution in townships is worse than the city, dragging down the air quality of the neighboring cities," said Chen Guoying, head of Hebei's environmental protection bureau.

He added that the province would improve the performance of the monitoring stations in the villages to make sure the network works well, shutting down more hidden polluting companies in rural areas.

More than 90 percent of villages nationwide did not have facilities to deal with garbage and waste, making pollution in rural areas a thorny problem, Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, said at a news conference on March 9.

"Currently, some major pollutants from rural areas have accounted for nearly half of the total emissions, and they continue to grow with the transferring of polluting companies from cities to villages," he said, adding that rural pollution would consume more efforts from governments.

The minister said rural pollution control would be a priority in the future, with more efforts and support policies coming.

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