Worsening environmental problems are threatening social stability in China as aggrieved residents resort to protests to make their voices heard, a senior official said this week. Severe pollution prompted at least 510,000 public disputes last year, which "caused a great threat to social stability," said Zhou Shengxian, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration. "Mass incidents," such as protests related to environmental problems, have been rising at an average rate of 29 percent a year, Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying. "If environmental protection continues to lag behind economic growth, [pollution] will get worse and will be harder to control," Xinhua quoted Mr. Zhou as telling a national conference on environmental protection Wednesday in Beijing. "Local officials … who fail to meet requirements will pay a price for turning a blind eye to the law," Mr. Zhou warned. His remarks highlighted the growing unease felt by senior Chinese officials at increasingly frequent environmental disasters….

Environmental woes mar social stability