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Environmental Protection
--Pressure and Progress
2009/10/27

 

The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

In the past 60 years since its foundation, especially in the 30 years after the introduction of the reform and opening up program, China has made much headway in the environmental protection.

 

I. Current Situation of the Environmental Protection

 

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates: "The State protects and improves the environment in which people live and ecological environment. It prevents and controls pollution and other public hazards." The National People's Congress and its Standing Committee have enacted nine laws on environmental protection and 15 others on natural resources protection since the PRC's foundation in 1949. The Chinese Government attaches high importance to environmental protection and takes environmental protection as its basic State policy, and take the sustainable development as a major strategy. it has put forth the Concept of Scientific Outlook, works for a harmonious socialist society, and embarks onto a new road to industrialization. During the 60-year period, the Chinese Government worked hard to promote its socio-economic development, and, at the same time, adopted a series of measures for the protection of the environment. Major ones include the following:

First, further improving laws and regulations on environmental protection. To date, nine laws have been enacted for the protection of the environment; they include the Law on Environmental Protection, the Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, the Law on Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, the Law on Appraising Environmental Impacts, and the Law on Prevention and Control of Radioactive Pollution. In addition, China has also formulated 50-odd rules and regulations, and over 800 norms with regard to environmental protection. There are also stipulations on environmental protection worked out by resources-related departments. All these combined to constitute China's environmental statutory framework. While strengthening environmental legislation, China works hard to ensure these  laws and rules and regulations be enforced to the letter. The State Council has instructed the departments concerned to punish enterprises which are still cause serious pollution, thus effectively solving environmental problems which endanger the health of people in their areas and undermine the socio-economic development there.

Second, striving to effectively control pollution in major river valleys and regions. Over the years, efforts have been made to control pollution in the "three river" area (the Liaohe River, the Haihe River, and the Huaihe River), the "three lake" area (the Taihu Lake, the Chaohu Lake, and the Dianchi Lake), "two regions" exposed to serious acid rain and sulphur dioxide pollution, "one city" (Beijing) and "one sea" (the Bohai Sea). Similar efforts were also made in area along the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the Three Gorges Reservoir and upstream of the Yangtze River. A large group of enterprises and production capacities which were resources guzzlers and environmental polluters have been closed down. Furthermore, efforts were made to do a better job of evaluating the impact of projects to be undertaken or renovated on the environment, and further protect the environment in both urban and rural areas. As a result, the worsening environment in major river valleys and regions have been effectively brought under control, and in some areas, the environmental quality saw satisfying improvement in some urban areas.

Third, the ecological protection and construction has been strengthened. In these years, we have developed large-scale ecological treatment projects such as restoring farmland to forests or grassland and protection of natural forests. In the light of the demand of the ecological protection and factual conditions, we have also started the construction of eco-functional zones. Thanks to the construction of six key eco-functional zones, conversion of the farmland to forests and protection of national forests in these years, the national forest coverage rate has increased to 18.2 percent. The overall expansion trend of desertification has been preliminarily controlled in recent years. In the meantime, we have specially enhanced the biological diversity and promoted the construction of natural reserves. The total area of the natural reserves in China has accounted for 15 percent of the total national land area, surpassing the average level of the world.

Fourth, more investment has been made in environmental protection. Increased investment includes funds from the government departments, contributions from the enterprises and funds raised from various walks of life, as well foreign capital. Major part of the funds is the fund raised through the floating of national bonds and the fund raised from various social sectors. The investment in environmental protection centering on pollution prevention and control has increased year on year. The investment of the State in this aspect was about 360 billion Yuan during the 9th Five-Year Plan period, but increased to 838.8 billion Yuan in the 10th Five-Year Plan period and will further be increased during the 11th Five-Year Program period. Meanwhile, some relevant mechanisms such as the policy of the charge on the urban sewage treatment and waste disposal and the marketization of the pollution control have also further strengthened, carving out all-round channels for the investment in the environmental protection of China.

Fifth, efforts were made to actively explore the effective approaches for the sustainable development. Based on the factual conditions of China, the national environmental protection departments have carried out a series of activities for building green environment. So far, nine provinces are actively building themselves into ecological provinces, 56 cities have become model cities in terms of environmental protection and 233 counties (districts and cities) are launching the eco-building activities. Meanwhile, the environmental science and technology, publication and education and information openness have been further enhanced; the environmental consciousness has been remarkably improved. While promoting the sustainable development, we take the development of circular economy as important measures for environmental protection, saving resources, adjusting industrial pattern and economic growth, so the industry of environmental protection also gains rapid development. Under the condition that the economy grows rapidly, the accelerating trend of environmental pollution and ecological destroy has been slowed down. The environmental quality of some cities and areas has been improved to certain extent. Our international environmental cooperation and exchanges have also been strengthened.

However, we should also be fully aware of the grave situation of the environment in China. The environmental pollution and ecological deterioration are still very serious in some regions. In some places, new environmental problems occur constantly when the old ones are not yet solved. Water, land and soil pollution is extremely serious in China. As the demand on resources from economic and social development and the requirement of mass people on environmental quality are increasing, environmental protection is facing greater pressure.

To meet the environmental challenge, the Chinese Government seriously summed up the environmental protection work during the 10th Five-Year Plan period and made deep and earnest research on the environmental protection work during the 11th Five-Year Program period, which had been included into the 11th Five-year Program for National Economy and Social Development. During the period of the 11th Five-Year Program, when the growth rate of the GDP maintains 7.5 percent, more efforts should be done to reduce the total discharge of major pollutants by 10 percent from that during the 10th Five-Year Plan period. This fully shows the decision of the Chinese Government on pushing forward the environmental protection and taking the task as the restrictive indexes to examine the governments at various levels.

Premier Wen Jiabao declared in his Report on the Work of the Government that the national discharge of the chemical oxygen demand (COD) decreased by 4.42 percent and that of sulfur dioxide also had a decline of 5.95 percent in 2008. This was another achievement we made after 2007 when the discharge of the COD and sulfur dioxide began to decline. By the end of 2008, the discharge of the COD and sulfur dioxide decreased by 6.61 percent and 8.95 percent respectively. The work of 2008 in this regard laid a solid foundation for the target of reducing the discharge of pollutants during the 11th Five-Year Program period.

The State attaches great importance to the work of reducing the discharge of pollutants, taking it as the important measure for strengthening the environmental protection and realizing scientific development. According to the 11th Five-year Program for National Economy and Social Development, 10 percent cut of major pollutants is the must-done target. The Government takes the building of the ecological civilization as the new requirement of realizing the goal of building a well-off society in an all-round way. Emphasis was given to basically form the industrial structure, growth mode and consumption pattern aiming at saving energy sources and resources and protecting the ecological environment, effectively control the discharge of the main pollutants and obviously improve the environmental quality. Hence, the State Council established the leading group to address energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao. The energy conservation work is in the charge of the National Development and Reform Commission and the work of pollutant discharge reduction is in the charge of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Work Plan of Saving Energy and Diminishing Pollution was also promulgated. Currently, various items of the work of energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction are actively pushed forward.

 

II. Huge Pressure From the Pollutant Discharge Reduction

 

For the 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, in particular in the 30 years of the reform and opening up, China made much headway in economic development, which, however, features high consumption of resources and serious pollution. In 2007, the amount of waste water discharged in China reached 55.7 billion tons, an increase of 29 percent from 2001; that of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand 24.681 million tons and 13.818 million tons respectively, decreasing 2.3 percent and 3.2 percent from 2005 respectively. Though the amount of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand discharged declined for the first time, there is still much to do for the accomplishment of the targets set in the 11th Five-Year Program.

Currently, the most important and urgent task we have to accomplish is to reduce the amount of pollutants discharged. The 11th Five-Year Program sets up a goal in the reduction of pollutants discharged that the amount of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand discharged should be reduced by 10 percent absolutely from these of 2005 (being 25.49 million tons and 14.14 million tons respectively). However, while striving for rapid economic development, there will still be large amount of new pollutants discharged even good work is done in this regard. If the GDP increases at an annual average rate of 7.5 percent as established in the 11th Five-Year Program, the new projects to be undertaken are expected to discharge 1.87 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 3.1 million tons of chemical oxygen demand. To reduce the amount of the pollutants discharged by 10 percent, there is the need to reduce 44.2 million tons of sulfur dioxide discharged and 4.51 million tons of chemical oxygen demand discharged. This means efforts to reduce 17.3 percent and 31.9 percent of the discharges of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand respectively from these of 2005. From 2006 to 2008, the economic growth rate surpassed 10 percent. Despite the financial crisis, it is the Chinese goal to see economy develops at a rate of 8 percent. So, China continues facing a serious situation with regard to environmental protection.  

   

III. Concrete Arrangements of the State
for the Work of Pollutant Discharge Reduction

 

In 2007, the State Council published the Comprehensive Work Plan of Saving Energy and Diminishing Pollution, mainly including the following contents in terms of the pollutant discharge reduction:

 

(1) Realizing One Goal

According to the goal of the 11th Five-year Program for National Economy and Social Development that the discharges of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand should be reduced by 10 percent, the discharge of sulfur dioxide should be reduced to 22.95 million tons in 2010 from 25.49 million tons in 2005; and that of chemical oxygen demand be reduced to 12.73 million tons in 2010 from 14.14 million  tons in 2005. This is the restrictive index approved by the State Council, which is of legal effect and must be fulfilled.

 

(2) Carrying Forward Three Technological Measures

The first is to push forward the pollutant treatment projects. The main indexes of the pollutant treatment projects during the 11th Five-Year Program period include: the daily sewage treatment capacity rises by 45 million tons in the urban areas; an additional amount of 6.8 million tons of reclaimed water be utilized; efforts be done to form a capacity of reducing3 million tons of chemical oxygen demand discharge; the work of key industrial wastewater treatment projects be strengthened to form a capacity of reducing no less than 1 million tons of chemical oxygen demand discharge; and the new coal-fired power plants establish the desulfurization equipments and the capacity of the desulfurization equipments of the existing coal-fired power plants reach 167 million kW, reducing 5.9 million tons of sulfur dioxide. A total of 12 iron and steel enterprises and 14 sintering machines complete the smoke and gas desulfurization project, reducing over 100,000 tons of sulfur dioxide discharge.

The second is to adjust the industrial structure. It is clearly required to close down 50 million kW of small thermo-power generating units and eliminating 100 million tons of iron-smelting capacity, 55 million tons of steelmaking capacity and 250 million tons of cement production capacity of ordinary shaft kilns and small mechanized shaft kilns, reducing some 2.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide discharge; to close down the straw pulp producing equipments with an annual output of below 34,000 tons and the chemical pulp production line with an annual output of less than 17,000 tons and the reclaimed paper mills with an annual output of less than 10,000 tons each which are not up to the standard, eliminate 200,000 tons of backward capacity of the monosodium glutamate producers with an annual output of less than 30,000 tons each and 1.6 million tons of backward capacity of alcohol producing technology and alcohol producers with an annual output of 30,000 tons and close down 80,000 tons of the capacity of the citric acid producers which fail to meet the required standards of environmental protection, reducing 1.38 million tons of chemical oxygen demand discharge.

The third is to strengthen the supervision and management over the pollutant discharge reduction. The main work is to strengthen management over the pollution sources discharge so as to elevate the standard for pollutant discharge of the key contaminative industries and increase the standard for pollutant discharge of the major State-controlled enterprises to over 90 percent.

 

(3) Completing Five Tasks

The first task is to establish the machine account of pollutant discharge; the second is to accomplish the corresponding methods for building the "three systems" of the indexes, supervision and examination of the energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction; the third is to do a good job in building the monitoring network at high standard; the fourth is to formulate the pollutant discharge reduction plan of each year during the 11th Five-Year Program period; and the fifth is to link up the departments concerned for good cooperation.

 

(4) Following Nine Systems of Pollutant Discharge Reduction

The first is the examination system of pollutant discharge reduction. Governments at various levels shoulder the responsibility for the reduction of the total discharge of the main pollutants during the 11th Five-Year Program period. Whether a government official is good lies in the fact whether the task is better accomplished while the local economy develops. The second is the statistical system of the pollutant discharge reduction, which is a new system beyond the active environmental statistical system. It supports environmental data analysis and decision-making for the macroeconomic operation of the State in the forms of quarterly report, half-yearly report and yearly report. The third is the monitoring system of the pollutant discharge reduction, which is the base and support for the examination system and statistical system. It is one of the key factors for the work of pollutant discharge reduction to make full use of the system to speed up the building of monitoring ability. The fourth is verification system of the pollutant discharge reduction. It is implemented to find out the local information concerned and help the local places to do a better job in the pollutant discharge reduction so as to achieve the aim of harmonious development. The fifth is the scheduling system of pollutant discharge reduction. The environmental protection departments at provincial level do the work of the pollutant discharge reduction on the quarterly basis. The system provides a guarantee for offering environmental data for the analysis meeting of the State Council on the economic situation. The sixth is the direct reporting system of the pollutant discharge reduction. It is required to conduct automatic on-line monitoring on the key State-controlled polluting sources and report the monitoring data to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and calculate the amount of the pollutant discharge reduction according to the verification results gained by supervising centers of the Ministry of Environmental Protection twice a year so as to guarantee the authenticity and consistency of the data. The seventh is the archival filing system of the targets of the pollutant discharge reduction. The State has unified requirements on the establishment of the plans of various provinces on pollutant discharge reduction and requires them to put on records in the Ministry of Environmental Protection so as to guarantee the plans of various places on the pollutant discharge reduction in accordance with the requirements of the State and be scientific and practical. The eighth is the auditing system of the information on pollutant discharge reduction. The environmental issue is sensitive in the current international society. Without the sanction of the State, the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government shouldn't publicize the data of the pollutant discharge reduction because this relates to the image of the local place and the international image of the State. The ninth is the early-warning system of the pollutant discharge reduction, which is similar to a system of caution and admonition. It requires the departments concerned to feed back and give warning in time in proper form when discovering the problems going against realizing the target of pollutant discharge reduction so as to solve the problems at initial stage.

 

IV. Progress of the Work of the Pollutant Discharge Reduction

 

Since the implementation of the 11th Five-Year Program, the departments concerned in various places have earnestly carried out the decisions and arrangements of the Central Government, taking the energy conservancy and pollutant discharge reduction as an important way and breakthrough for adjusting the economic structure and transforming the development mode. We have made breakthrough progress in pollutant discharge reduction and realized important transformation from knowledge to practice. It is estimated that the discharge of chemical oxygen demand and sulfur dioxide will decrease by 4 percent and 5 percent respectively from the previous year and 6 percent and 8 percent respectively from 2005. Under the precondition that the economy has grown rapidly, we have not only maintained the good situation of keeping the discharges of both chemical oxygen demand and sulfur dioxide reducing but also completed the task on schedule, making historical breakthrough in pollutant discharge reduction.

The State Council established the leading group to address energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao, and issued the Comprehensive Work Plan of Saving Energy and Diminishing Pollution and held the national video and television conferences on the energy conservation and pollutant discharge reduction, arranging the work in this aspect in an all-round way. The local governments at various levels established the corresponding managerial organs in succession.

The State Council commented on the Plan on Controlling the Total National Emissions of Major Pollutants during the Period of the 11th Five-Year Program, establishing the indexes of controlling the total emissions of major pollutants for various places. It also issued the Plan and Method Regarding the Monitoring of Energy Conservation, Emission Reduction and Evaluation, stating clearly that leading cadres in all provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) and key enterprises will be appraised by their performance in achieving the goals for energy conservation and reduction of emission of major pollutants. Those who fail in this task will be held responsible and the one-vote-down system implemented. To supervise and urge the implementation of the Comprehensive Work Plan of Saving Energy and Diminishing Pollution and the yearly plans on pollutant discharge reduction in various places, the Ministry of the Environmental Protection develops large-scale checking and accounting work on the total pollutant discharge reduction twice a year and combines the National Development and Reform Commission and National Bureau of Statistics to issue the examination results of the data of the discharge of major pollutants and yearly pollutant discharge reduction in various places, launching the early warning and publicizing mechanism for the places developing slowly the work of pollutant discharge reduction. The local governments also actively strengthen the examination on the responsibility of administration, recording an administrative demerit on the or dismissing the leader in charge of the city or country which fails to complete the yearly target and implementing the regional limited approval on the counties and districts which don't do their best in the work of pollutant discharge reduction.

To realize the set target of the pollutant discharge reduction, the Ministry of the Environmental Protection puts forward three concrete measures including the pollutant discharge reductions in terms of projects, structure and management and implements them in specific areas and projects through a series of economic, legal and administrative measures with the departments concerned, gaining fairly good effect. According to the latest data, in 2008, the daily sewage treatment capacity rose by 13.05 million tons in the urban areas, more than the task of 12 million tons; the installed capacity of the desulfurization equipments of the coal-fired power plants in China increased by 97.12 million kw, more than three times of the planned task and the total installed capacity of the desulfurization equipments of the coal-fired power plants in China reached 363 million kW. A total of 12 smoke and gas desulfurization facilities of the sintering machines were added and a large number of coking plants and non-ferrous metal enterprises completed the sulfur dioxide treatment projects. All together 16.69 million kw small thermo-power generating units were closed down, more than the task of 13 million kW. The work of eliminating the backward capacity of cement, iron and steel, coke, electrolytic aluminium, paper making and alcohol proceeds smoothly. The supervision over pollutant discharge reduction in some areas has obvious effects and the national comprehensive efficiency of the desulfurization units of the coal-fired power plants increases year after year.

Thanks to the fairly scientific, operable and promissory system of law and regulations formulated, the work of pollutant discharge reduction has gained good effects. The system involves the statistics, monitoring, verification, early warning, plan, scheduling and bulletin of the pollutant discharge reduction, not only effectively mobilize the local governments and relevant enterprises, but also gaining the recognition of most local governments and departments concerned. Moreover, the Ministry of the Environmental Protection promulgated the Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, specifying the administrative provisions on the control of the total discharge of the key water pollutants and intensifying the responsibility of the local government. The environmental economic policies such as Energy-saving Power Dispatching Methods (Trial Version), the Management Method for the Operation of the Desulfurization Units of the Coal-fired Power Plants and Electricity Price and the Temporary Management Method for the Fund of Replacing Supplement with Awards for the Supplementary Pipe Network of the Urban Sewage Treatment Facilities were promulgated, effectively promoting and guaranteeing the work of pollutant discharge reduction. In cooperation with the plan of the National Development and Reform Commission on eliminating the backward capacity of the cement, calcium carbide, ferroalloy, steel, electrolytic aluminium, paper making and alcohol industries, the system of publicizing the eliminated enterprises with backward enterprises was established. The Ministry of Environmental Protection launched the pilot work of the paid use and trade of the right to pollutant discharge in Taihe Lake valley, Tianjin and Zhejiang with the Ministry of Finance, encouraging the enterprises to reduce the pollutant discharge with market mechanism. The Ministry and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine jointly issued 11 bulletins on the standard for pollutant discharge such as the Discharge Standard of Pollutants for Pulp and Paper-making Industry, further increasing the requirements of the pollutant discharge.

The Chinese Government and the Chinese people have made Herculean efforts to protect the environment. But the Chinese Government is fully aware of the grave situation of environmental protection in China, because the country is now at a stage of accelerated industrialization and urbanization when the contradiction between economic growth and environmental protection is particularly prominent. In some regions environmental pollution and ecological deterioration are still very serious. The discharge of major pollutants has surpassed the sustaining capacity of the environment. Water, land and soil pollution is serious, and pollution caused by solid wastes, motor vehicle emission and not easily degradable organic matter is increasing. In the first 20 years of the new century, China's population will keep growing, and its total economic volume will quadruple that of 2000. As the demand on resources from economic and social development is increasing, environmental protection is facing greater pressure than ever before. 

 

 

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