Pollution is amongst the world’s killer threats that many economies try to fight against. Environmental pollution affects the health of over 100 million people globally on an annual basis (Harris, 2012). The search for economic development has been quoted as one of the key factors that initiate environmental degradation. The case in China is no different; for three consecutive decades, China has been on the remark in successive economic developments. This has resulted from increased income from the manufacturing and industrial sector. China is amongst the top regions in the world in production of machines, gases, coal, among many other industrialized products (Schweitzer, 2009).
Sixteen of the world’s most populated cities are based in China. Experts argue that, for the last twenty years, China has undergone through an industrialization process, which would take more than a hundred years for many developing economies to complete. China’s heady economic growth and development accelerated in 2007 with its GDP hitting a 1.4% mark, a level that had not been reached before (Zhang, 2011). This economic growth, however, has come along with the economic crisis on environmental development. This is as a result of pollution from the industries mainly water, atmospheric and land pollution. The scope and scale of pollution in the country out spaces what is currently experienced in Europe and United States (UNEP and GEF, 2005).
Some of the key environmental challenges include water, land, population and development, and greenhouse gases. The economy suffers both water shortage and pollution as a result of pollution. About a third of the population lack clean water, almost 70% of rivers and lakes being polluted, and at least two hundred million tons of industrial waste and sewerage systems are drained into waterways (Schweitzer, 2009).
Desertification leads to an annual loss of about 5,800 square miles of grassland in the country. Excessive cultivation, overgrazing, and other agricultural activities lead to desertification in search of land. As this rate grows, so is the increased numbers of sandstorms, air pollution, and release of dust particles into the atmosphere, which add up to a third of the country’s pollution (Schweitzer, 2009). Coal products are the key contributors to the growth of the economy’s GDP. In 2008, for instance, China surpasses its main rival, US, as the largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world. This increase was primarily due to overreliance of coal in the country, which accounts to at least two thirds of the economy’s energy consumption. Greenhouse gases emitted such as Sulfur Dioxide cause acidic downfalls, in over 30% of the country, and this affects agriculture, and other sectors (Zhang, 2011).
Increased urbanization is also another element contributing to China’s environmental degradation. China hosts more than 1.3 billion people. With the economy’s increased prosperity, consumerism, urbanization and pollution, are the expected results. A significant example of consumerism resulting from increased population rates is on the car and motor manufacturing sector. In 1990, the country’s car production was at 42000 passenger cars. By 2000, this number, had increased to hit one million marks with 16 million passenger cars being manufactured. The results of increased car usage imply increased car emissions, which are the principle sources of urban pollution in the country (Harris, 2012).
The question as to how the China’s government has responded to the increased environmental threat remains at the heart of many concerned environmentalists. In 2006, the government had received at least 600,000 complaints from local inhabitants, and international environmentalists concerned about the policy measures implemented in the country. Aside from the economic concerns related to environmental degradation, the government of China recognizes the threat related to social unrest of citizens to the central authority. These results from the increased number of public protests fueled by a sense of lack of individual rights related to increased levels of industrialization. Most of the protesting groups indicate that as much as the country needs to grow and develop there are no concerns on the health of the people (Sinkule and Ortolano, 1995). In 2008, for instance, Chengdu citizens protested against the construction of a Petrochemical factory and Oil Refinery in the region, citing environmental effects of the factory to their health.
The Chinese government and environmental agencies have passed regulations aimed at increasing environmental standards, and target offenders. In 2007, for example, the government passed a regulation on any new constructors in that they must meet energy efficiency measures and standards. Owners of existing buildings were also expected to improve efficiency in environmental observance (Schweitzer, 2009). This measure was challenged on the increasing trends in construction as by 2007 the country prospected an expenditure of $200 million in maintenance of the existing buildings. However, the prospected expenditure as at 2020 will be challenged with the double trend in construction and building sector. This implies that the amount prospected would not be enough by year 2020, and therefore, the objective of the measure will not be met (UNEP and GEF, 2005).
The state’s Environmental Protection Agency has also been on the front line in initiating policies and measures to reduce the impacts of environmental degradation. EPA has been marked banning power firms, which do not adhere to environmental ethics and standards. The agency has also banned new developments on cities considered as highly polluted and ensuring that the existing industries adhere to environmental standards otherwise they face the law.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has also put measures safeguarding on reduction of automobile emissions. The ministry has set policies on fuel standards and automobile technology, which every automobile manufacture is obligated to follow (Zhang, 2011). The use of tailpipe emission standards is amongst the policies enacted in the country in an effort to reduce car emissions. The challenge faced by this ministry in implementing these policies is that it cannot unilaterally impose the policies; the ministry has to lobby with other government arms in imposing new fuel standards or in enforcing compliance on oil companies. When fuel standards fail to keep in pace with vehicle technology, the ministry of environment delays in issuing the tail piped emission standards (Zissis and Bajoria, 2008). This implies a failure in automobile up gradation, which is the objective of the ministry’s policy in reduction of air pollution.
The government of China has set a Standardization Administration, which has a committee and a sub-committee on environmental and research projects. The committee, however, faces a shortcoming from the fact that a majority of the members are from oil producing companies, who come up with policies favorable to them. These members present their company’s interests to the committee with limited acknowledgement on the effects of their operations on the environment (Zissis and Bajoria, 2008). The Ministry of Environment relies on these committees on formulating issues and policies to safeguard the environment. However, these committees do not act ethically, and end up delaying the reports, and, therefore, the government delays in approving the expected standards on environment (Harris, 2012). This cycle has been in existence for the last decade, and if membership is not changed, the economy may not be near to solving the environmental issue any time soon.
Upgrading of the China IV diesel standards is also another policy that the government considers a solution to the environmental crisis faced in the country. The country intends to adopt these European based standards by the end of 204. The standards aim at slashing Sulfur emissions to about a seventh of the current levels of emissions. The State Council indicates that, it intends to ratchet up the national fuel standards to levels similar to those in their counterparts in US and Europe. The state council also aims at implementing policies on refined gasoline and diesel standards (China V diesel Standards) by 2017.
According to the US EPA, to achieve this policy, China requires to adopt standards such as those in Europe in having diesel fuel of 10 parts in a million or a lesser amount (Zhang, 2011). The expenditure and overall costs required in the up grading system has been termed as extremely high by most of the industries producing oil. In this perspective, the State Council has reported the need for implementation of a fiscal policy to support refinery upgrades. The Ministry of Finance delay in submitting to these reports and policies has rendered ignorance to the standards by the existing oil companies.
In February 2013, the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued stricter policies on factory emissions. The ministry set standards for six coal burning industries, which include power industries. The ministry issued measures against release of Sulfur, and in recycling measures to reduce wastage released to the atmosphere and water. Compliance to this measure would imply reduced amounts of acidic rain, supply of clean drinking water, and saving aquatic life.
However, compliance to this policy may be a shortcoming as most coal producing factories are state-owned. Most of these factories appear on the annual lists of factories, which have violated environmental emission regulations. A review also indicates that most of these factories are run by the biggest power producing companies, which generate the highest percentages to the economy’s GDP, and, therefore, complying with the regulations may not be realistic (UNEP and GEF, 2005).
Another limitation to environmental upgrading policies is on the low levels of penalties that the Government has set aside as penalties for lack of adherence. Fines are capped around $16000, which most companies prefer to pay other than adhering to the set regulations. To address this issue Ms Zhou, the Greenpeace representative in the country, has been on the forefront ion pushing for the motion that violating industries should be closed temporarily. She views that closure of business would force companies to take the regulations seriously. However, as earlier indicated, most of the companies are state owned, and therefore, her efforts to drive the motions have been fruitless.
As a result of failed implementation on policies safeguarding environmental sustainability, in the country, the magnitude of environmental waste and destruction has become difficult to comprehend. Chinese air has become a nasty brew of Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, and Ozone (Sinkule and Ortolano, 1995). The situation is becoming even worse as automobile production and use keeps increasing leading to increased dirt in the air. The policies set for mileage supervision have failed leading to increased atmospheric pollutants (Schweitzer, 2009). Acid rains in most regions are so pervasive that agricultural production keeps declining. Buildings are damaged by the rains, and this imposes a massive risk to human life. Birth defects, respiratory infections, cases of bronchitis, and heart attacks, among others, have become the leading causes of death in the country. The remainder, being the animal kingdom, has not been spared either. At least 385 different species face the threat of air, water, and land pollution.
China is facing a losing battle between pollution, depletion of resources, and political instabilities (Sinkule and Ortolano, 1995). The country’s economic growth is a false sense of progress since all indications are that this progress is not sustainable. Growth remains a priority in the country where the communist society specializes on wealth other than sustaining the environment.
The set watchdogs on environmental issues such as Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPB), Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), among others, have become income oriented causing delays in implementation of environmental sustainability measures. Over 2000 independent NGO’s have been formed aiming at providing information on environmental degradation, and the importance of a sustainable environment. Some of these NGO’s work together with the watchdogs, but their efforts is weakened by the communist society (UNEP and GEF, 2005).
The International Community, such as US and Europe, has also been active in supporting environmental sustainability in the country by providing funds and drawing Chinese NGO’S into projects which shape environmental policymaking. Beijing has been quoted as amongst the cities pulling such efforts down, for instance, in the case of Kyoto Protocol (Zhang, 2011). The solution towards the environmental menace in China lies on a local perspective (Harris, 2012). There is the need for more effective policies than what exists currently.
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Harris, P. G. (2012). Environmental policy and sustainable development in China: Hong Kong in global context. Bristol: Policy.
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Schweitzer, J. (16th January 2009). China’s Downfall: the Ultimate Impact of Environmental Degradation. The Blog, Work Cited http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff- schweitzer/chinas-downfall-the-ultim_b_158338.html
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Sinkule, B. J., & Ortolano, L. (1995). Implementing environmental policy in China. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Praeger.
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United Nations Environment Program, & Global Environment Facility. (2005). Reversing environmental degradation trends in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand: Report. Bangkok, Thailand: UNEP/GEF.
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Zhang, Z. X. (2011). Energy and Environmental Policy in China: Towards a Low-Carbon Economy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub. Bottom of For
Zissis, C. & Bajoria, J. (4th August 2008). China’s Environmental Crisis. Council on Foreign Relations, Work Cited http://www.cfr.org/china/chinas-environmental-crisis/p12608