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Newsletter (June)



  China's state of environment remains serious although progress has been made in pollution control, said Xie Zhenhua, Minster of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), releasing the 2000 Report on State of Environment at a press conference held by the Information Office under the State Council on June 5, the World Environmental Day.

  Xie said that the trend of worsening environmental pollution in China had been "basically" brought under control, with total emissions of major pollutants down 10-15 percent compared with 1995. He said the environmental objectives set for the Ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) had been "basically" achieved. However, pollution levels remain unacceptably high, and ecological degradation has not been brought under control.

  According to the report, the concentration of main air pollutants in cities around the country continued to decline in 2000. 36.5 percent of the 338 cities for which monitoring data are available met the national air quality standards applicable to residential areas in 2000. Those with "moderate" or "heavy" pollution fell from 40.6 percent to 33.1 percent. There was no noticeable change in the intensity or distribution of acid rain.

  Although industrial sources have greatly reduced their wastewater discharges since 1995, an increase in domestic sewage has offset that reduction and domestic waste now exceeds industrial emissions as a source of water pollution. Most water monitoring stations in the seven major river basins recorded improvements compared with 1999, but organic pollution was still universal. The water quality of the Liaohe River was the worst.

  Year 2000 recorded 28 times of abnormal alga growth &endash; "red tides" &endash; caused by marine pollution, up from 13 in 1999. The area affected totaled 10,000 square kilometers and was concentrated off the costs of Liaoning, Hebei, Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong provinces. Red tides can cause serious losses to local fishing industries.

  The report warns that some 90 percent of China's grasslands are degraded to varying degrees. The area degraded, desertified or satinized is expanding by 2 million hectares each year. More than half of all cultivated land is deficient in potassium, 70-80 percent has inadequate nutrients and 20-30 percent has an over-abundance of nitrogen. The recent increase in sandstorms in north and northwest China is directly related to the degraded physical-chemical properties of these soils.

  In the next five years, the government will strengthen law enforcement and apply high technology in the sector, while increasing investment and adopting more favorable economic policies, according to Xie. Priority will also be given to efforts for environmental protection in the vast rural area. The government will take a series of measures to enhance the environmental protection awareness of the farmers, and accelerate infrastructure construction in the countryside. The government will also improve the transparency in disclosing information about the environment, and will open a hotline receiving public complaints.

  In addition to the report, Ministry of Agriculture and SEPA have also jointly released a Report on China's Fishery Environment. This report noted that water pollution is getting more and more severe in China's fishery bases. Major pollutants include nutritious salt, organism, petroleum and heavy metals. The deteriorated environment has caused economic losses of 3 billion yuan in the fishery industry each year. The report noted that the environment in the far sea areas are better protected than in the near sea and estuary, where red tides occurred frequently in recent years.


  The Working Group on Sustainable Agriculture convened an international workshop on the integrated land and water resources management in China's Coast areas in Nanjing, Jiangsu province on April 5-6, 2001, after a field study on integrated land and water resource management in the Pearl River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region.

  The workshop covered mainly four topics. These included integrated management of land and water resource, market and change of agricultural structure, green agriculture and agricultural environmental protection, and biosafety and global issues.

  The Working Group on Energy Strategies and Technologies held its working group meeting and two special topic workshops in Kunming, Yunnan province on May 20-29, 2001. Members of the working group and other relevant international and Chinese experts attended the meeting.

  The working group meeting reviewed the work undertaken by the working group during the second phase and discussed draft recommendations to be submitted to the Council and the State Council, as well as its Phase II summary report to the Council. In addition, members also discussed alternative energy sources and their feasibilities in Yunnan. They also noted the current energy crisis in California and the lessons that China could learn from.

  The working group also organized two workshops. One is a small-scale seminar on China's energy scenarios analysis, and the other is on synthesis gas (or "syngas"). The group also had a study tour, inspecting a solar energy generation demonstration project and a biomass demonstration project.

  The Working Group on Trade and Environment had its working group meeting in Baoquanling, Heilongjiang province on May 22-23, 2001. The meeting reviewed and discussed the progress of the research projects undertaken by the working group. These included a study on trade liberalization and sustainable development in China's forestry and fishery sectors, a literature review of international experience in integrated assessment of environmental consequences of trade agreements, and a study on cleaner technology transfer to China's western provinces and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

  Participants also discussed the working group's recommendations and its reports to be submitted to the Council. It was decided that further work needed to be done to finalize the WGTE's Phase II summary report which would also be submitted to the Council.

  After the WGTE meeting, a training workshop on China's WTO accession was held in Harbin, Heilongjiang province on May 24, 2001. The theme of the workshop was agriculture, trade and sustainable development. There were about 100 participants attending the workshop. Among them were a number of high-level governmental officials from Heilongjiang including Vice Governor Wang Zhengchuang, scholars working in the areas of trade, agriculture and forestry, and representatives from large enterprises, the General Bureau of Heilingjinang State Farms and its branch of Baoquanling State Farms.

  Topics covered by the workshop included trade and environmental issues in the WTO, particularly on market access and PPM, intellectual property rights and genetically modified organisms; current WTO negotiations on agriculture; structure changes in the agriculture sector from China's WTO accession; green agriculture and green food in China; and local experience in ecological conservation in rural area of Heilongjiang, and WTO accession and its implications for China's environmental protection.

  The Working Group on Biodiversity convened its working group meeting and a workshop on Biodiversity Conservation in Qinghai in Xining, the capital of Qinghai province on June 25-30, 2001. Working Group members and other international and Chinese representatives and observers participated in the meeting and the workshop. Before the meeting and the workshop, a three-day study tour was undertaken investigating grassland ecological conservation and sustainable development near Xining.

  In addition, the Working Group on Pollution Control convened its working group meeting in the Netherlands in mid May. The meeting focused on the CO2 emissions mitigation project. The Task Force on Forestry and Grassland had its meeting in late May. The Working Group on Transportation organized a workshop on integrated transportation system in April, and had its working group meeting in the U. S. in late May to early June. The Working Group on Environmental Economics is planning to have its meeting in Vancouver in August.


  China's State Council released the Regulation on the Management of Biosafety of Agricultural Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on June 7, 2001. The regulation, the first of its kind, aims to strengthen the management of agriculture-related GMOs, to protect human health and the environment and to promote further research into the area.

  The Regulation contains a total of 56 articles and provides specific details about research, development, processing, transportation and the trading of agricultural GMOs including plants, animals and microbes.

  GMOs will be divided into four categories (I - IV) and managed according to their potential harm to humans, animals and plants, microbes and the environment.

  The department of the State Council responsible for agriculture (referring to the Ministry of Agriculture) will be in charge of supervising the management of GMOs, according to the new regulation.

  The regulation requires that research institutions have sufficient facilities to ensure safe research into the area and report to the Ministry of Agriculture before they start their research work.

  Individuals and organizations will have to get approval before engaging in experiments related to producing, processing, importing and exporting agriculture-related genetically modified plants, animals and microbes.

  Those who wish to export genetically modified plant seeds, animal species and microbes to China must apply to the Ministry of Agriculture, and prove the prospective GMO products to be exported to China meet the three conditions: 1) they have been permitted to enter into the market of the exporting countries; 2) they have been found no harm to human, plants and animals and the environment; and 3) they can be safely handled through effective management and preventive measures.

  The regulation also requires that certain GMO products be properly labeled before they can be sold in the open market.

  Enforcement of the regulation on imported products falls primarily to the State Council's Agricultural Department for testing and approval, and to inspections by relevant quality control agencies. For domestic products, enforcement and testing fall to the local agricultural administrative departments, that is, provincial agricultural bureaus.

  The regulation took effect as of the day of issuance.


  Survey Shows Environment Top Public Concern 

  A recent survey, conducted by the China Environmental Journalists' Forum, Unilever (China) Limited and a research center at Beijing University, shows that environmental protection has become a top concern among Chinese people and more and more people in China are joining in efforts to protect the environment.

  The survey covered a population of more than 15,000 across the country. About 49 percent of respondents believed that the most important issue in China now is environmental protection; the percentage of concerns over China's population and backward education system was only 15 percent and 12 percent respectively. Most people would like to take concrete action to protect the environment, even at some personal cost.

  About 65 percent of people said they would be willing to buy environmentally friendly products at prices up to 20 percent higher, and 69 percent said they would support any government move to raise tax for environmental protection. Over 56 percent of the respondents regarded air and water pollution as the top environmental problem where they live. (People's Daily Online, 05/29/2001)

  World Bank Approves US$100m Loan to China 

  The World Bank has recently approved a loan of US$100 million to assist the environmental recovery of the Liaohe River Basin in China's northeast province of Liaoning. The project will improve the environment in the area by providing facilities for collection and treatment of wastewater, establishing municipal utilities capable of managing these facilities, upgrading basin-wide water quality management and monitoring capabilities, and providing technical assistance and training. The project will reduce pollution in the area and to bring quality up to at least a minimum level for agricultural water supply or general amenity use throughout the basin by 2010. This will be achieved by regulating and reducing pollution from industries, establishing wastewater treatment works in all cities in the river basin, improving collection and disposal sludge from wastewater treatment plants, protecting water used for agriculture and aquaculture, and improving water quality in the Bohai Sea. (People's Daily Online, 06/20/2001)

  China Issues New Ban on Plastic Tableware 

  The State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) has recently issued the Urgent Notice on Immediately Halting the Use of Disposable Expanded Plastic Tableware. SETC, which issued a similar ban on such products in 1999, reiterated its stand on eliminating disposable expanded-plastic tableware. Such products including foam plates and containers are called a "white pollutant" in China because serious problems exist in the production, use and disposal of these products. To encourage the use of more environmentally friendly disposable tableware, SETC's notice calls for an immediate halt of using disposable expanded-plastic tableware. Competition from cheap, disposable expanded-plastic tableware has left idle much of the country's production capacity of enterprises producing more environmentally friendly tableware. (China Online, 06/11/2001 and China Daily, 06/06/2001)

  SEPA Strengthens Environmental Management in West 

  Recently SEPA issued the Several Views on Strengthening Environmental Management in the Great West Development. The document aims to implement great west development strategies set by the government, to protect ecological environment and to strengthen environmental management in increased development activities in western provinces. It requires western provinces to strengthen the screening and approval of new development projects, to strictly implement environmental impact assessment and the "Three Simultaneity" (designing, installing and putting into operation of pollution control facilities simultaneously with the main project), and to enhance ecological conservation.

  (SEPA website at

  Two More Cities Awarded "Model City" 

  Minister Xie Zhenhua recently announced that Hangzhou City and Ningbo City of Zhejiang Province were awarded the title of "National Environmental Protection Model City," making the total number of such cities seventeen. Hangzhou has vigorously implemented the country's national basic policy of environmental protection. It has achieved great progress in environmental protection by increasing environmental spending, implementing integrated environmental management and cleaner production, eliminating the "black and smelling" phenomena in the segment of Yunhe River that passes through Hangzhou, and improving water quality of West Lake. Ningbo has set sustainable development strategy as its guiding principle of economic development, promoting integrated development of economy, society and environmental protection. The city focused on water pollution control, industrial restructuring, and environmental infrastructure based on a rational function layout of the city. It has also greatly strengthened environmental enforcement. (China Environment News, 06/26/2001)

  Mayors Sign Green Declaration 

  More than a hundred mayors throughout the country recently signed a "Green Declaration" in Beijing. Mayors declared that, as administrators and decision-makers, they should maintain sustainable development as their urban, value and moral outlook, and devote to integration of environmental concerns into urban economic and social development. While obtaining natural resources from the environment, they should also bear responsibility to protect and restore the balance of the natural ecological system. Mayors also committed themselves to active participation in and the promotion of international and regional cooperation on environment and development; to implementation of international environmental agreements of which China is a member; and to working together to control trans-urban pollution and pursuing the path for urban sustainable development. (China Environment News, 06/26/2001)

  Regional News 

  - The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China has released its plan to restructure its agriculture and animal husbandry while trying to protect the worsening ecological environment. The government's primary task is to curb the extension of desert and protect the pasture so that progress can be made in environmental protection and stock breeding. The region will strive to make rational use of underground water, reduce the use of plastic film, and harmful chemicals, and control industrial pollution, according to the government plan. Inner Mongolia has about 87 million hectares of grassland, accounting for 22 percent of China's total. Excessive grazing is blamed for the deterioration of the environment over the years. (People's Daily Online, 05/27/2001)

  - Zhuhai People's Congress recently adopted a statute on the prevention and control of water pollution, leading the country in tightening controls on water pollution and water environment protection through legislation. The statute specifies explicitly on safety management, pollution prevention and control involving pollution accidents, and legal liability. In addition, it also contains provisions on water transportation safety of shipments, pollution prevention facilities on ships, ports and docks, loading and unloading of dangerous goods, deck washing, ship disassembly, and garbage disposal, etc. The port throughput of Zhuhai in 2000 hit 20 million tons, of which one third were dangerous goods and have brought potential threat to water environment near the port. (People's Daily Online, 06/04/2001)

  - Tibet has recently launched the largest scale ecological protection plan ever in history. From 2001 to the first half of the century, Tibet will input 22.7 billion yuan for some 160 key projects to improve the ecological environment in the region. According to the new plan, the region will take measures to bring the discharge of sewage and emissions of exhaustion gas under control by setting up more installations for garbage and sewage treatment in Lhasa and other large cities in the region. The plan also calls on the banning of mountain exploitation, quarrying and other activities likely causing harm to natural environment. The region will also promote the eco-agriculture and popularize the use of hydropower, solar energy and wind power in the agro-pastoral areas where live the 90 percent of population in the region. Although Tibet still remains one of the best places in the world, its ecological system is quite fragile given the changing of global climate and increased of human activities. (People's Daily Online, 06/01/2001)

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