For some years, I’ve figured China set to be the largest country to undergo ecocide on grand scale. Maybe not really so enormous an issue as that, but several recent stories show the environment in too many places is highly strained, or even at critical point.
For instance, algal blooms in three major lakes recently; at one or two, leading to severe problems with supplying water to people. In all, harm to fisheries etc.

The Financial Times has carried reports on a World Bank report that’s due out soon, and saying Chinese officials have argued for not publishing several of figures, such as 750,000 premature deaths per year because of env problems.
In today’s South China Morning Post, these reports denied by China, but World Bank refusing to comment.

From FT of 2 July:

Beijing engineered the removal of nearly a third of a World Bank report on pollution in China because of concerns that findings on premature deaths could provoke “social unrest”.

The report, produced in co-operation with Chinese government ministries over several years, found about 750,000 people die prematurely in China each year, mainly from air pollution in large cities.

Advisers to the research team said ministries told them this information, including a detailed map showing which parts of the country suffered the most deaths, was too sensitive.

“The World Bank was told that it could not publish this information. It was too sensitive and could cause social unrest,” one adviser to the study told the Financial Times.

Sixteen of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China, according to previous World Bank research.

Missing from this report are the research project’s findings that high air-pollution levels in Chinese cities is leading to the premature deaths of 350,000-400,000 people each year. A further 300,000 people die prematurely each year from exposure to poor air indoors, according to advisers, but little discussion of this issue survived in the report because it was outside the ambit of the Chinese ministries which sponsored the research.

Another 60,000-odd premature deaths were attributable to poor-quality water, largely in the countryside, from severe diarrhoea, and stomach, liver and bladder cancers.

The mortality information was “reluctantly” excised by the World Bank from the published report, according to advisers to the research project.

750,000 a year killed by Chinese pollution
A report in the FT the next day included:

Residents of polluted cities do not need the World Bank to tell them the air is filthy. They breathe the stuff every day. But Chinese officials are right to be nervous. Environmental protests – rural and urban – have proliferated in recent years as Chinese citizens become better educated and more forceful in defence of their rights. In Xiamen, angry residents have stalled plans to build a petrochemical plant seen as a source of lethal pollution.

However, the correct response to the sort of grim news contained in the World Bank report is not to suppress the truth but to tackle the underlying problem. Reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations, for example, is neither as expensive nor as difficult as businesses and the provincial governments with which they collude often pretend.

Moreover, China can tie the essentially domestic crisis of urban air pollution into solving the international problem of climate change. Spewing out local air pollutants and carbon, the main global warming gas, often go hand in hand. The same holds for modernising plants to avoid either type of emissions. Many foreign companies are eager to fund these clean-up projects in exchange for carbon credits valued at home. In the meantime, these could help China solve its local air pollution problem.

All of the above can only happen if Chinese leaders overcome their fear of the facts and start telling the truth. They may find it easier than they think and it would certainly produce better results.

China must come clean about its poisonous environment

Post edited by: Martin, at: 2007/07/06 11:47