Thursday, 15 February 2007

Environmental Round-up: Water, Ports and Clean Development

Three recent news articles that give a good overview of the problems but also the political will that China now appears to be showing regarding the continued environmental degradation of the country.

I have included only the highlights.

Thirsty China Sets Ambitious Water - Saving Goal
China has per capita water resources well below global averages, and expects climate change to worsen shortages across the already arid north, but until now it has focused on massive water transfer schemes to try to resolve the problem.
The target, which matches one for energy saving over the same period, was also signed off by the water resources and construction ministries, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its Web site (

Under the plan, China aims to boost efficiency in agricultural irrigation systems -- in some areas the most wasteful users of water -- increase recycling of urban water and cut back on leaks from urban pipe networks, the document said.

Altogether it should save 69 billion cubic metres of water, the report added.

China has only recently started focusing on environmental protection after years of promoting economic growth at almost any cost, as riots and mounting bills over pollution problems drew Beijing's attention to the problem.

This year alone, drought in northwestern Shaanxi province has left at least 300,000 people short of drinking water.

Tap water turned salty in parts of the gambling hub of the former Portuguese enclave of Macau after water flows down the Pearl River slowed, and the sea level rose, forcing it to hastily build a plan to access fresh water further upstream.

China Orders Closure of 12 Plants for Pollution
BEIJING - China has ordered a dozen heavy industrial plants to shut down for failing to meet pollution standards and told another 70 to comply with the rules.

The State Environmental Protection Administration said on its Web site ( that the plants represented combined investment of 2 billion yuan (US$258 million).

They include a metallurgy company in Inner Mongolia, four steel makers in Jiangsu and Hebei and a charcoal plant in Shandong.

"Projects that seriously violate the state's industrial policies and environmental protection thresholds must be immediately and permanently closed down," SEPA vice head Pan Yue was quoted as saying.

The agency has been striving to extend its influence in the face of opposition from local authorities that frequently put growth before the environment.

SEPA said on Monday that China fell short of its goal for 2006 to reduce emissions of pollutants by 2 percent from 2005 levels.

With New Port, China Aims for Cleaner Development
Caofeidian, China's newest and largest iron ore port, is open for business, just 19 months after workers began to convert an isolated sand spit in northeastern China into a massive port and industrial zone.

But the Caofeidian project shows not just the dizzying speed of China's development, it is also meant as a clean departure from earlier policies of growth for growth's sake.

The facility, 220 kilometres (136 miles) southeast of Beijing is held up as a model in a country plagued by smelly black smoke and even fouler water from steel mills and factories.

When completed, it will boast a world-class steel mill, berths to unload coal, crude oil and liquefied natural gas, strategic oil reserve tanks, a petrochemical complex, a refinery, a cogeneration plant, a man-made harbour and a five-star hotel.

Wang Junguo, Caofeidian office director for the Communist Party Committee of the nearby city of Tangshan, said he is confident that this time the planners will manage to achieve economic development without worsening pollution.

The industrial zone's modern, energy efficient facilities will allow China to shut down ageing, polluting steel mills and other plants in surrounding Hebei Province.

A natural deep channel will allow large ships to deliver iron ore efficiently to mills in northeastern China. A railroad will link to the Datong-Qinhuangdao line, China's most-heavily used route for coal, coke, iron ore and steel. A coastal highway is being completed.

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