Thursday, March 13, 2014

China News: China declares war on pollution with $35 billion fund (5 March 2014)

China declares war on pollution with $35 billion fund

BEIJING: China on Wednesday declared a war against chronic pollution choking the booming nation, allocating about $35 billion for environmental protection this year to combat toxic smog that frequently engulfs Chinese cities.

The government will take strong measures to prevent and control pollution with the focus on mega cities and regions with frequent occurrence of smog, Premier Li Keqiang said in his first government work report at the annual session China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC) today.

Hazardous smog, several times dangerous than that of limits fixed by WHO continues to engulf capital Beijing and a host of top Chinese cities for the best part of the year raising concerns of pulmonary infections including lung cancers among public.

Li allocated 210.909 billion yuan ($35 billion) for energy conservation and environmental protection this year, a 7.1 per cent increase compared to last year.

The government will start by reducing PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, and focus on improving the industrial structure, raising energy efficiency, reducing vehicle exhaust emissions, and preventing and monitoring wind-borne dust, Li said.

Miao Xuegang, NPC deputy and head of environmental protection department of east China's Anhui Province, said Li's declaration is "a letter of commitment from the government".

A total of 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces will be shut down this year and cleaning technologies, including desulphurisation, denitrification and dust removal, will be introduced at coal-burning power plants, Li's report said.

Six million old high-emission vehicles will be removed from the roads, and diesel fuel for vehicles that meets fourth-stage national standards will be provided nationwide this year, Li said.

The government will also implement the clean water action plan, strengthen the protection of sources of drinking water, prevent and control water pollution in key river basins, and carry out land restoration.

Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature's red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development, Li said.

Ai Nanshan, a professor at Sichuan University in southwest China's Chengdu city, said the government shoulders a major responsibility in dealing with pollution.

"You cannot get a beautiful GDP figure at the cost of environment," state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Ai, a researcher of environment studies as saying.

Local officials would have no desire to tackle pollution if gross domestic product (GDP) remained a solely important element in the evaluation of their performance, Ai said.

Zhang Wenxin, deputy head of Xinbin county of northeast China's Liaoning Province, said an effective official assessment mechanism should be established to encourage local officials to put more efforts in environmental protection.

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