Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) "China has paid a high price in environmental terms" for its rapid economic development over the last 20 years. This is what Pan Yue, vice-director of the State Administration for Protection of the Environment (SEPA) told the seventh Green Forum of China, which opened on Saturday 18 June in Beijing.
According to Pan Yue, development must respect the needs of the environment and society, or else the predicted economic growth rate of 400% in 2020 will bring a corresponding increase in pollution and exhaust the country's natural resources. Even if China has become "the factory of the world", he said, it exports only "products of low industrial level" to more developed nations and "consumes its own resources", both material and environmental. For example, China uses more water and dumps more sewage than any other nation. Its gross domestic product is between 400 and 1,000 US dollars per capita, but its pollution levels are similar to those in western countries with a GDP per capita of between 3,000 and 10,000 dollars.
Pollution has reduced habitable land from six million sq km in 1949 to three million today, while the population has grown from 600 million to 1.3 billion. Beijing has become notorious for its congested traffic more than two million vehicles are always in circulation, and they will increase to five million in 2020 and for its air pollution. Expensive subways have proved insufficient to lessen traffic and plans are afoot to transfer public service offices to the outskirts. Currently government offices are built in the most prestigious and expensive areas, like Zhongnanhai, near the central imperial Palace amid trees and little lakes.
Sixteen out of the world's 20 most polluted cities are found in China. Much of the pollution comes from the use of coal to produce energy; coal stations produce 75% of necessary energy. They emit sulphurous anhydride, which causes acid rain and damages estimated at 110 billion yen (13.3 billion US dollars) per year, according to SEPA. Pan Yue defines as "completely wrong" the development ideology prevalent in recent years, which preaches "first development and then prevention and control of pollution"; he warns that "ecological development" is called for and that "the government [should] adopt provisions to encourage clean production and to punish serious pollution." (PB)