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Newsletter (June)



  At the end of 1998, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and the Ministry of Education conducted a survey to determine people's environmental awareness. The 9,202 people surveyed were aged from 10 to 65, and came from 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions (Hong Kong was excluded from the survey.) The survey is the largest of its kind ever conducted in China.

  Among those surveyed, 56.7% considered pollution in China to be "very" or "relatively serious", and 22.8% felt it was "not very serious" or "not a problem". Water and air pollution were the biggest concerns.

  Eight-six per cent felt that the cause of pollution was attributable to poor enforcement or non-compliance of environmental regulations. Only 25% of people took environmental protection into consideration when shopping.

  The environment was listed after poverty, education and over-population as a global issue. Social security, education and employment were next on the list after the environment.

  The survey revealed a lack of environmental awareness. When asked 13 questions regarding environmental protection, the respondents' average score was only 2.8. The survey also showed younger people were the most environmental aware.


  The State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) recently conducted a study on the environmental industry. The study showed that the environmental industry has become one of the most dynamic segments of China's economy, and developing it is key to improving pollution control and fueling domestic market demand.

  The industry's output value in 1997 was 52.2 billion yuan (US$6.28 billion),of which 23.5 billion was from environmental equipment, 20.4 billion from comprehensive utilization of resources, and 6.28 billion from environmental services.

  With people's increasing awareness of environmental protection, the demand for technology and facilities for the treatment and disposal of urban sewage, garbage, smog and dust is rapidly increasing. Currently, China lacks an effective management system to effectively direct the sector. Eighty per cent of the businesses engaged in environmental protection are small, with fixed assets averaging 3.2 million yuan. The lax control over firms has led to repetitive construction, local protectionism, and inferior product quality. To address the inadequacies of the environmental industry, the SETC has defined four tasks: formulate policies and development planning, promote the advancement of environmental technology, develop the market for environmental products and services, and strengthen management of environmental enterprises.


  The State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) released its 1998 Annual Report on the State of the Environment. The report reveals that despite achieving some positive results in environmental protection, China continues to be confronted with grim environmental and ecological deterioration. Pollution in many regions has not changed. Some areas are even worse.

  According to the report, water contamination, shortage, droughts and floods are major problems for the water environment. Although waste discharge decreased last year, many rivers and lakes remain badly polluted. Water quality in the Yangtze River, Huan River, and Pearl River improved. The Yellow River, Hai River and Songhua River were unchanged and Liao River worsened. More than half of inshore water is graded as Level III or higher.

  The report shows air quality remained poor or worsened in Beijing, Taiyuan, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Guangzhou and other major cities. In 1998, sulfur dioxide, smog and soot emissions dropped by 7.8%, 7.7% and 12.2% respectively. Acid rain now falls on about 30% of China's total territory. Other notable points in the report include a decline in industrial waste effluent by 5% nationwide since 1997, and an increase in household sewage by 2.6%. Protection of endangered species was also identified as a serious problem.

  The report includes results of the comprehensive environmental rectification campaign launched in 46 cities in 1998. Eleven cities have been designated models for environmental protection.

  China increased investment in environmental protection from 0.8% of GDP in 1991-5 to 1% in 1998. This rate is the highest among developing countries. In the next 10 to 15 years, the central government will emphasize pollution control and ecological preservation and establish a dozen ecologically-friendly cities.

  Key pollution control projects for the rest of the Ninth Five-Year Plan period up to 2000 are the "33211" projects; that is, pollution control of three rivers (Huaihe, Liaohe and Haihe), three lakes (Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi), two air control zones (acid rain and sulfur dioxide), one city (Beijing), and one region (Bohai).

  Solid erosion has become the number one ecological environmental problem. The State Council has adopted the National Plan for Ecological Construction. The goal of the plan is to bring soil erosion caused by man-made factors under control by 2010.


  Representatives of the CCICED Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) spent most of May in the Inner-Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) developing the 1997 Working Group recommendations. These recommendations centred on IMAR's vast grasslands and the need for demonstration projects in the area. The Mission was comprised of Bob Wettlaufer and Gerry Luciuk from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (PFRA), and Yichun Dai from the CCICED International Secretariat who acted as translator.

  The group started in Hohhot and toured the Agriculture University on Inner-Mongolia and the Vocational and Technical College near Baotou City. Observations were made on the research and extension capabilities of the college and the Yellow River Irrigation Projects near Baotou.

  The mission next moved to Xilinghot, a Banner which contains one-quarter of Inner-Mongolia's livestock, for meetings and discussions on rotational grazing, improvement of native and tame range, production of winter feed, water supply, and irrigation of grasslands.

  From there, the mission moved to Wudan where they were joined by SAWG member Dennis Sheehy for a tour and discussion of the World Bank Poverty Reduction projects in Wenniute Banner. The World Bank project is characterized by ecological restoration through tree planting, terracing and grassing, as well as efficient water use, new crop varieties, livestock rationalization, housing improvement, and land management practices. After several days in this area the group moved north to Hailar where they were joined by another SAWG member, Wayne Lindwall. The group looked at reduced tillage initiatives on the relatively pristine soils of the area, as well as sand dune reclamation and grassland improvement. The Shanghai Dairy Corporation processing plant was visited and discussions were held on improving winter feed for the dairy herd. The mission then returned to Hohhot where it was joined by SAWG co-chair Bernie Sonntag for meetings with senior IMAR officials.

  The mission was joined for several days by CCICED project director Earl Drake who was shown the vocational and technical college facilities, as well as some of the irrigation problems in the area of Baotou City and Hohhot.

  The Sustainable Agriculture Working Group members then departed for their 1999 tour and the remaining mission members continued meetings with senior IMAR officials, university and college personnel, and senior CIDA and embassy officials including Ian Wright, the director general of the Asia Branch. The mission concluded with visits to the Grassland Research Institute in Hohhot and the Australian Embassy in Beijing.


  The Working Group on Trade and Environment convened its first meeting of 1999 on April 16-17 in Beijing. Four completed and two ongoing projects were discussed. The group also reviewed the WG reports that will be submitted to the China Council this year, and debated the WG's recommendations to the Council. Several new initiatives were discussed. These include trade implications of outer packaging material and sustainable growth of China's foreign trade, the liberalization of trade in the environmental service sector in China, and integrating trade, investment, and sustainable development in selected state-level economic and technological development zones. As new progress was made in China's accession to the WTO, the WG will prepare a special paper for the Council on the trade and environmental implications of China's accession.

  As announced in the March 1999 Newsletter, the Task Force on Economic Planning and Environmental Protection will proceed with its international meeting on finance and technology for the energy sector on July 26-27. In addition, it scheduled an international review meeting on an integrated decision-making system on economic planning and environmental protection. The integrated system is being developed by an interministerial group under the leadership of the State Development Planning Commission and with the participation of SEPA. The meeting's purpose is to get international input to the new decision-making system under development.

  The Working Group on Cleaner Production held its fourth meeting in Taiyuan from March 19-20. At the meeting, the Working Group developed initiatives to work on by the end of September 1999. These initiatives include working on the draft of a long-term plan and rule for the implementation of cleaner production in Taiyuan; undertaking policy research for promoting cleaner production; assisting in cleaner-production education and training; and providing guidance for cleaner production auditing. The WG will also undertake methodology and technology research for cleaner production and organize a seminar on the topic.

  The Working Group on Pollution Control's fourth meeting of the second phase took place in Hawaii, USA, in April. The meeting approved project proposals on acid precipitation and CO2 emission reduction. Discussions also included the ongoing research project on the integration of energy and the environment in Shanghai, and how to combine this project with the demonstration project on CO2 emission reduction. The group also reviewed the research project on comprehensive watershed pollution control of the Pearl River in Guangdong Province. A progress report was made on the draft of the Guide for Comprehensive Assessment and Prediction of Environmental Impacts. The operational mechanisms of the Working Group and project management, in particular the management of foreign-funded projects, were also discussed.

  The Working Group on Sustainable Agriculture held a field tour and workshop May 14-28, 1999. The topic of primary interest this year was the Loess Plateau, a 500,000 km2 area along the Yellow River in north-central China. The area is characterized by rough topography, loess (wind-blown) soils, seasonal drought, and severe wind and water erosion. Annual rainfall ranges from over 600 mm in the south (Xi'an) to 200 mm in the northern deserts. About 70% of annual rainfall occurs July to September, often in a few high-intensity storms. Erosion results in soil loss and sedimentation of rivers and puts downstream plains at risk for flooding in high rainfall years.

  The Loess Plateau receives a lot of infrastructure investment (e.g. terracing, tree planting, roads, railways). The rich energy resources of the plateau (coal, gas, oil) are now undergoing massive development. The area also benefits from poverty alleviation programs from Chinese and international sources. These programs are essentially rural agricultural development. element of the programs include land management (terracing, trees, shrubs and forages), diversification (fruit trees, livestock), de-population of some areas, desert control, and social measures. Much of the land development effort seems to try to defy nature and physics. Research programs appear to be conservative and academic. They tend to focus on refining relationships already well understood, rather than resting unconventional soil and crop management technologies that have proven useful elsewhere. Much of the area is probably not sustainable in agriculture but remains there due to national and provincial policies (e.g. national food security objectives, provincial food self-sufficiency targets, regulations limiting internal grain trade). Population pressure is another factor, as China's population is expected to increase by 300 million people before it peaks.


  Cleaner Production Demonstration Project Launched 

  The State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) has recently decided to implement a nationwide cleaner production demonstration project. It has designated ten pilot cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenyang, Taiyuan, Jinan, Kunming, Lanzhou and Fuyang. The petrol-chemistry, metallurgy, chemistry, light industry and ship industries are the five sectors chosen to carry out the demonstration project. The three-year project is divided into two phases. The first phase is from July 1999 to November 2000; the second phase is from January 2001 to July 2002. (China Economic Information, 06/16/99)

  SEPA Issues New Auto Petrol Standards 

  The State Environmental Protection Administration has recently issued the Standards for the Control of Harmful Substances in Automobile Petrol. The standards control the levels of benzene, sulphur, alkene, aromatic hydrocarbon, lead, manganese, iron, copper, and phosphorus found in automobile gasoline. These standards take effect on January 1, 2000. (People's Daily, 06/04/99)

  Netherlands to Sponsor Research in CO2 Emission 

  On May 26, 1999, an agreement was signed in Beijing between the Royal Netherlands Embassy, acting on behalf of the Netherlands Ministry of Development Cooperation, and the CCICED International Secretariat. The agreement runs from May 15, 1999 to November 30, 2001, and finances the development of policy options for CO2 emission reduction in China. The total contribution will not exceed NLG 1,240,000. The activities will be carried out under the direction of the CCICED Working Group on Pollution Control. (CCICED International Secretariat)

  Vice-chair of CCICED Wins International Award 

  Qu Geping, vice-chair of CCICED and chairman of the National People's Congress Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, won a global prize for his outstanding contribution to environmental protection in China.

  Qu is one of two winners of the annual Blue Planet Prize, a prestigious environmental award funded by the Ashi Glass Foundation based in Japan. This year's other recipient is an American scholar from Stanford University involved in population studies and biological sciences.

  The Blue Planet Prize was launched at the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The prize is awarded to two individuals or groups, and includes a medal, a certificate, and 50-million Japanese Yen (US$409,000). (China Daily, 06/18/99)

  Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign Kicked Off 

  An anti-illegal logging campaign was kicked off with the goal of better protecting forest resources. Hundreds of reporters from China's major media outlets will investigate illegal logging activities and poor forest management practices. It is estimated that one million acres of forest land are destroyed each year in China.

  Southwest Provinces Join Hands 

  An inter-provincial and municipal plan was devised by six southwest provinces and municipalities to cooperate on forestation. The governments of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guilin, Chongqing and Chengdu will invest 120 billion yuan during the next 10 years to build 65.78 million acres of forest lands in the upper and middle-upper ranges of Yangtze River and Pearl River. Logging of natural forest has been completely banned in these areas.

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