U.S. Water News Online
BEIJING -- China needs to break ties between polluting
industries and local officials if it is to succeed in cleaning up its
badly tainted water supplies, the founder of a new environmental
The government also has to spend more on environmental enforcement
and improve public accountability, said Ma Jun, director of the
Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
A report last month by China's parliament accused local officials
of failing to enforce standards for fear of hurting industry. It said
emissions of sulfur dioxide -- the chemical that causes acid rain --
are rising at a time when the government is promising to cut
"If we can't even enforce our environmental standards on the
industrial polluters, how can we enforce them on our sewage plants
who have close ties to authorities?" Ma said at a talk for foreign
"There's a need to break interest links because ... those who
benefit are included in the government structure. They can make
decisions, but those who are affected -- the communities, the public
-- are not effectively involved in this."
Ma's group launched a Web site called "China's Water Pollution
Map." The site, www.ipe.org.cn/water , includes details from 30 of
China's provinces and regions on water quality and chemical
discharges, as well as a list of polluters.
The site is an unusual step for a nongovernmental group at a time
when the communist government is trying to suppress public monitoring
of official activities.
Chronic pollution and a string of industrial accidents have
tainted most of China's rivers, lakes and canals. Some areas are
suffering from critical water shortages.
Last month, China said it will spend 1 trillion yuan (US$125
billion; euro100 billion) to improve water treatment and recycling by
2010 to fight the mounting threat of urban water pollution.
Ma said research for his site showed that more than 100 cities
have failed to provide any water pollution data.
He said authorities who are trying to improve water conditions
before the 2008 Beijing Olympics face an uphill battle.
Because the capital is expanding "in a very rapid way, new
buildings, new neighborhoods are discharging their waste and the
facilities are not ready for those new sites," he said.
"Efforts have been made. Progress has been made," Ma said. "But
the challenge is big."
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