Pollution a long-term challenge
Updated: 2012-03-14 08:08
Two days after the State Council adopted the revised pollution standards recommended by the environment ministry, which include smog-related pollutants such as fine particles, a senior environment official admitted the new standards still lag behind those in the West and pollution is a severe challenge that could take years to overcome, says an article on scmp.com. Excerpts:
Mounting public concern over increasingly bad air in urban areas has finally made the government lay its hand on new standards for smog-related pollutants.
Health studies have shown a close association between PM2.5 - respirable airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate the lungs - produced by vehicle exhausts, coal-fired power stations and factories, and premature death from heart and lung disease.
Premier Wen Jiabao assured the annual meeting of the National People's Congress the government would not pursue growth at the cost of public health or the environment, and that it was capable of striking a fine balance.
The National Development and Reform Commission later confirmed that annual targets include both energy and carbon intensity and nitrogen oxides, which add to ground-level ozone formation and can cause lung damage.
Deputy Environment Minister Wu Xiaoqing said at least two-thirds of mainland cities - including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - failed the new standards. Nonetheless, environmentalists agreed that they were a landmark move.
Wu is right that the challenge of improving air quality calls for years of unremitting effort from everyone.
The adoption of the new standards shows that public opinion is a critical factor. In that respect, hopefully, they will result in more transparency and increasing pressure on the authorities to step up efforts to control pollution.
(China Daily 03/14/2012 page10)