"China can't take the way of polluting first and then treating it." says Jia Feng, deputy director of the Center for Environmental Education and Communications of State Environmental Protection Administration of China while accepting an exclusive interview by the People's Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm.
Jia Feng explains that the western countries took the way of polluting first and then treating it for half a century or even longer. After paying a great price in people's health or even people's life and the loss of economic and ecological system, the environment has been improved. But China's situation is very different. Industrialization process in developed countries have lasted over 100 or even 200 years and their environmental issue came through a longer period of time which gave them time to solve it step by step. But these problems cry out in China only within 20 years. The total quantity of pollutant discharge is huge and the industrial pollution is very complicated with all different types.
"If we choose the western way, I'm afraid that we have neither time nor conditions, maybe before the highest pollutants are discharged, the ecological system that shoulders economic development will be crashed, then how can we have sustainable development? Other social issues brought about by environment issue may also threat our national sustainability." says Mr. Jia.
China faces severe water scarcity and pollution. About 300 million farmers don't have clean drinking water; two-thirds of the cities lack water, one-sixth of the city have severe shortage of water. 60% of the seven large rivers in China have water quality problem rating below grade 4. If the water pollution is not solved timely, there will be really the phenomena that we have a lot of rivers, but have no clean drinking water.
Jia Feng say in recent two years, the environmental protection issue has got unprecedented attention, chances and challenges coexist. From political perspective, the central government has paid unprecedented attention to environment. This is a valuable historic opportunity. At the press conference during the National People's Congress annual conference in March, Premier Wen Jiabao said "environmental target is one of the targets that we haven't fulfilled". According to the tenth-five year plan, China's major pollutants discharge should have reduced by 10% on the basis of 2000. But the fact is that some major pollutants such as SO2 has increased about 27% on the basis of 2000 while the COD discharge in water only reduced 2% compared with the goal of reducing 10%.
Since the end of last year, the central government has taken a series of measures in dealing with the issue. The politburo of the central committee of the Communist Party of China heard the environment report at the end of last year. Early this year, the State Council issued a decision on strengthening environmental protection followed by a series of environmental protection conferences. A regulation on violation of environment protection laws were also issued by the Ministry of Supervision and the State Environment Protection Administration or SEPA.
With the authorization of the State Council, the SEPA has signed contracts with 7 provincial governments and six large power enterprises including Huaneng in reduction of SO2 discharge and with 9 provinces in reduction of water pollutants.
Currently there are also many technical methods to supervise the national environmental quality. Taking water as an example, a total of 750 national supervision stations have been established and 80 of them can send data to China Environment Supervision Station through satellites or other methods. In order to comprehensively and timely supervise environment and disaster prediction, China will launch satellites on environmental supervision and disaster prediction later next year.
Jia Feng says he has worked in environmental protection sector for nearly 20 years. He has felt the attention paid by the central government. This year marks the largest investment in environmental sectors by the government. In addition to investment, 200 extra positions are added in environmental protection sector for environmental supervision in five regions and six supervision centers for nuclear and radiation security impact.
Jia Feng held that the current estimation of cost on public resources is so low that some enterprises and individuals ignore the conservation of energy and resources. "Judging from cultural tradition, Chinese people are the most thrifty people. But the current low efficiency or even waste in resource utilization and high energy consumption per GDP unit is the result of low price of resources, in addition to awareness and technical reasons."
With the political will, there is a need of scientific innovation to realize environmental protection targets. Three Chinese students from Shanghai Nanyang Model School recently won the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. This event can be seen as a great encouragement for young people to devote themselves to water treatment and keep water clean. In addition to using advanced water treatment equipment, taking ecological and biological methods to improve the water ecological system will be the best method to treat water pollution, but the precondition is that there will be no new pollutants discharged to rivers or lakes.
Statistics show that China's GDP growth rate has surpassed 10% in the first half of this year. The partial overheat of economy continues to bring great pressure on environment protection. "The 11th five year plan target is to reduce the pollutants discharge by10% by 2010 on the basis of 2005. But the fact is that in the first half of this year, the pollutants was still on the increase. The SO2 and COD discharge increased 4.2% and 3.7% respectively. Although the strong political will from the central government has provided unprecedented opportunities, it is still a big challenge to complete the 11th five year plan target in environment protection." Jia Feng worried about it.
He said that it is very important to improve enterprises' and people's environmental protection awareness. "People should understand that to pollute a river takes a year or two or even a few days, but to clean a polluted river will need a whole generation or even several generations to complete."
By Chen Xuefei, People's Daily Online correspondent ([email protected])