China Environmental News Alert
October 1, 2011 – October 10, 2011
AFP (October 1, 2011)
Prominent environmental activist Wu Lihong continues fighting to clean up Taihu Lake, which lies on the border of the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu in one of China’s richest regions. It is still a source of drinking water for the heavily populated area despite heavy toxic waste contamination from surrounding factories and farms. In its 2010 annual report on the country’s water quality, China’s environmental protection ministry gave Taihu Lake its lowest rating, which means that it cannot even be used for agriculture or landscaping, according to a World Bank report. The government has made efforts to clean up the lake, releasing millions of algae-eating fish into the water and recently ordering the closure of nearby sewerage discharge facilities and garbage dumps beginning on November 1st.
China Daily (October 4, 2011)
The environmental authorities are proposing to strengthen the standards on air quality, which could lessen the number of official blue-sky days for many cities. The new standards on air quality will include regulations on the monitoring and publication of particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which are not currently included in determining the air pollution index (API). Major cities like Beijing, Nanjing and Guangzhou will face more serious air pollution ratings if PM2.5 is included in the API.
Guardian (October 4, 2011)
China’s environmental NGOs have been working with their US counterparts to ramp up the pressure on Apple, who they accuse of secrecy and poor supplier management. On September 13, NRDC president Frances Beinecke wrote to new Apple chief executive Tim Cook, prompting Apple to contact both the IPE and the NRDC to arrange meetings. According to “Apple’s Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress Report”, many suppliers were found to be in severe breach of environmental laws – 80 of 127 factories had not properly stored or handled hazardous chemicals; 41 did not recycle or dispose of hazardous waste properly or as required by law; 37 did not monitor and control air emissions, and more than 10 had wastewater problems; 63 did not have the permits required by government authorities, including approval of their environmental impact assessments.
Associated Press (October 4, 2011)
China Power Investment Corp. has stepped up pressure on Myanmar after it surprisingly suspended construction of a jointly backed but much criticized hydroelectric dam, saying scrapping the project would cause legal problems. Environmental activists have said the dam would displace countless villagers and upset the ecology of one of the Myanmar’s most vital national resources, the Irrawaddy River. The dam has also come under criticism because it was supposed to export about 90 percent of electricity it generated to China, while the vast majority of Myanmar’s residents have no electricity. The suspension was praised by many, including democracy advocates in Myanmar and the U.S. government.
Xinhua (October 5, 2011)
Coal accounts for about 70 percent of China’s energy mix, 30 percentage points higher than the world average. Such heavy reliance on coal to boost the economy has led to serious pollution and ecological damage, severely hampering China’s sustainable development. As a way out, China has resolved to develop non-fossil renewable energies over the next five years. China plans to increase consumption of non-fossil energies by 210 million tonnes of coal equivalent during the 2011-2015 period. This will make the total non-fossil energy consumption reach 470 million tonnes of coal equivalent by 2015, 11.5 percent of the total energy consumption in China. The target includes, of coal equivalent, 280 million tonnes hydropower, 90 million tonnes nuclear power, and 100 million tonnes of other renewable energies, such as wind power, solar power, and biomass energy.
Wall Street Journal (October 5, 2011)
Shanghai environmental-protection authorities said a battery factory operated by U.S.-based Johnson Controls Inc. that they ordered to suspend operations last month will remain closed through the end of the year, along with 14 more plants that also use lead. The moves suggest the city is rethinking the balance between economic growth and safety after a series of lead-poisoning scandals around the country.
Xinhua (October 6, 2011)
In Hebei province, sheep farming has been targeted by government authorities who are seeking to stop desertification and conserve water resources. Authorities have put a stop to many sheep farming operations in order to preserve the environment and prevent desert sands from creeping south toward Beijing, located just 200 km south of Chicheng. The ban has significantly affected the incomes and livelihoods of local people.
Guardian (October 6, 2011)
China is on course to exceed forecasts for greenhouse gas emissions because its economy is growing faster than expected and becoming “locked in” to carbon-intensive activities, two studies warn this week. Climate Action Tracker praised China for a “major effort” to meet and possibly surpass its pledge to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 40-45% by 2020. But they said the gains were being outweighed by a faster-than-expected surge of the country’s economy. By 2020, they predicted the net outcome of this “China emissions paradox” would be one gigatonne (GT) more carbon dioxide per year than the researchers’ previous estimate of 12.5GT.
(October 6, 2011)
Near the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, mining and factory waste is destabilizing the Longmen Shan region. According to geology expert Yang Yong, who spent two weeks carrying out a survey of the region in August, raw minerals and ores for factories near Deyang City and Mianyang Prefecture are all coming from open mines in the Longmen Shan region. Longmen Shan serves as a water source for the Chengdu plain and that water is becoming polluted due to mining in the region.
China Daily (October 10, 2011)
Local governments at all levels are expected to face stronger obligations to protect the environment, and polluters will face much heavier fines, according to a draft proposal to amend China’s decades-old Environmental Protection Law. One highlight of the draft is a proposal to strengthen local governments’ legal responsibilities in environmental protection. The draft proposal also pushes for greater transparency on pollution information from both government and enterprises. Public interest litigation, which allows individuals, NGOs and government bodies to sue polluters on behalf of the public, will be, for the first time, endorsed by law if the draft proposal is approved by the legislature.
(CENA prepared by Christina Whang)
* The links and article summaries in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.