BEIJING - One-third of China's vast landmass is suffering from acid rain
caused by its rapid industrial growth, while local leaders are failing to
enforce environmental standards for fear of hurting business, said officials
quoted Sunday by state media.
China's factories spewed out 25.5 million tons of sulphur dioxide ¡ª the
chemical that causes acid rain ¡ª last year, up 27 percent from 2000, said Sheng
Huaren, deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of parliament.
Sheng released a report Saturday that found pollution from factories and
power plants was rising by 9 percent a year. The report said sulphur dioxide
emissions were double safe levels.
"Increased sulphur dioxide emissions meant that one-third of China's
territory was affected by acid rain, posing a major threat to soil and food
safety," Sheng said, according to the Xinhua News Agency and newspapers.
Environmental protection has become a prominent issue in China following a
string of industrial accidents that poisoned major rivers, forcing several
cities to shut down their water systems.
Chinese cities are among the world's smoggiest following two decades of
breakneck economic growth. The government says all of China's major rivers are
dangerously polluted. Millions of people lack access to clean drinking water.
On Sunday, local officials said a tanker carrying 25 tons of caustic soda had
fallen Friday into the Xuefeng River in China's northwest, poisoning a drinking
water source for 100,000 people.
One person was killed in the accident, Xinhua said. Officials said the water
quality had returned to normal by Sunday after the government dumped 10 tons of
hydrochloric acid into the water to neutralize the caustic soda, also known as
Premier Wen Jiabao publicly criticized officials in April after the
government revealed it failed to meet most of its targets over the past five
years in environmental areas ranging from containing pollution to stopping the
loss of farmland. Wen said officials would be held personally responsible for
future environmental disasters.
The government pledged this year to cut air pollution emissions by 10 percent
Beijing plans to spend $175 billion on environmental protection over the next
five years, up 60 percent from the previous five years, according to Mao Rupai,
chairman of the parliament's environmental committee.
Lawmakers are considering raising fines for environmental violators in order
to encourage companies to spend more on clean technology, Mao said at a news
conference on Saturday.
Mao complained that local officials fail to enforce standards for fear of
hurting businesses. He said some areas comply with as few as 30 percent of
"It is true that in some areas, local governments focus more on economic
development than on the environment," he said. "In the future, officials will be
judged not just by their economic growth but by environmental protection as