At the conclusion of the new government handover in China, smog once again descended upon the capital of China, Beijing, formerly known as Peking. Severe pollution has been a growing environment concern in China. It is not uncommon to find Chinese citizens wearing face masks as they travel to and from work. The face masks are worn not just to avoid diseases like the flu, but to reduce the carbon monoxide inhalants that gather to the choke the Capital city and other major cities in China. Air pollution is not the only environment concern. The Chinese people are becoming more outspoken on environment issues including the quality of drinking water sourced from underground and river ecosystems. A large cause of the growing pollution has been the rapid rise of China’s strong industry and economic expansion.
Inside the Great Hall of the People, Chinese President Li Keqiang was sworn into office, officially becoming the leader of the world’s second largest economy. In his address to the National People’s Congress, President Li Keqiang announced his continued support for the growth and stability of the Chinese economy and culture, but also highlighted the challenges that China faces regarding the environment and related health concerns of its people.
Environment Concerns for Drinking Water
Recently, an extraordinary number of dead and diseased pigs were discovered dumped in the upper reaches of the Huangpu River. The Huangpu River is one of the major sources for processed drinking water in Shanghai. This is not a new problem for the Chinese people, where dumped pigs are regularly found floating in river systems. While the Chinese Government last week declared that the floating pigs environment issue in the Huangpu River was resolved, many Chinese citizens including the media remain skeptical. Regular daily checks are being carried out on the quality of filtered drinking water in Shanghai, where the Government has stated that the drinking water meets the international standards of the World Health Organization.
Environment & Air Pollution in China
Towards the end of the National People’s Congress, a rare protest vote was cast on the establishment of an Environment Committee. President Li Keqiang has been quite open about the challenges China faces with regards to reducing pollution. China is currently the largest source of carbon emissions in the World. Fine particles (PM2.5) are at alarming high levels with one third of China covered in smog earlier this year which resulted in many young children being admitted to hospital with asthma.
The Japanese Times on the 25 February, 2013 reported that the Chinese Environment Protection Ministry announced that a maximum 306 micrograms of PM2.5 was detected per cubic meter of air in Beijing, during the Chinese New Year holiday in February. These fine particles lead to cancer and hardening of arteries. Vehicles, coal plants, manufacturing, home heaters that burn coal, and an increase in vehicles in major cities like Beijing are the main sources of air pollution, which is a direct contributor to environment change being experienced on a global level at rapid and alarming rate.
In 2008, the United Nations estimated that China was responsible for 29,888,12 (in thousands of tonnes) of CO2 emissions which is 23.5 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. The United States of America came in second with a share of 18.27 percent, the European Union which unites 27 countries came in third with 13.97 percent in contrast to Australia which emitted an estimate of 1.34 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
During his address to the Chinese Congress, President Li Keqiang’s confirmed the continuation of the investigation into corruption by Chinese Officials in China and announced a number of cutbacks to government spending.
Voting Results on Environment Committee
The results for the establishment of an Environment Committee was announced to an applause, with 850 delegates voting against the committee, 125 abstaining and 1,969 voting in favor. The establishment of this committee is a positive move on China’s part, as the group will have a direct input into drafting environment laws for China. Zhou Xioozheng of Renmen University commented that the number of No votes is concerning, as it shows that Chinese delegates have a very strong opinion about the affect of the environment laws on sustaining China’s industry and growth.