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The ever-worsening environmental pollution, characterized by choking smog, stinky rivers, toxic soil and piling-up garbage, has been diluting Chinese’ satisfaction and euphoria derived from the breathtaking economic boom of the past decades.
It’s an increasingly accepted consensus that prosperity at the cost of natural balance and the ecosystem is as bad as poverty itself, or even worse.
Overall, China is faced with a grim situation of pollution, major woes including air, water and soil pollution, and waste disposal.
Based on available information, about one-tenth of China’s cultivated land has been polluted, either through the use of contaminated water for irrigation, overuse of chemicals, or the dumping of solid waste. As a result, an estimated 6 million metric tons of grain are contaminated by heavy metals every year, causing direct losses of 29 billion yuan (US$2.57 billion). The heavy metals in the contaminated soil pose a serious threat to human health.
As one of the world’s 13 most at-risk countries for water shortages, China is also under the threat of severe water pollution. Despite the lack of recent statistics, frequent reports of water contamination across the country still present a gloomy picture. About one-third of industrial wastewater and more than 90 percent of household sewage is released into tens of thousands of rivers and lakes without being treated. A large number of cities have no sewage treatment facilities, few have plans to build any and underground water supplies in 90 percent of the cities are contaminated.
When it comes to air pollution, every citizen of major cities, especially the ones in North China, has plenty to complain about. Shamefully, 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China. When smog is thick, visibility drops to less than 10 meters, traffic slows to a crawl, and nearly everyone wears a mask.
So severe is the environmental pollution that the solution to the issue brooks no more delay.
Since he took office as Party chief in 2012, Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed the importance and urgency of protecting and improving the ecosystem and environment.
In the amended Party Constitution passed at the CPC’s 18th National Congress in 2012, the task of developing eco-civilization was for the first time included. It was also the first political party in the world to make eco-civilization as its guideline.
Xi has all along placed importance on environmental protection. While he worked in the provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian as the provinces’ Party chief, he never failed to attach equal importance to eco-civilization and economic growth. In Zhejiang, he put forward the famous slogan — green mountains and clear rivers are a gold mine. Under his leadership, Zhejiang has been dedicating significant resources to harness and restore the contaminated rivers and lakes. As a result, the province has become a role model of eco-civilization, with thousands of polluted rivers and lakes regaining vitality.
But nationwide, pollution is far from being contained. The fundamental cause is the excessive enthusiasm on the part of some provincial and municipal leaders to pursue higher GDP goals with little interest in improving the environment. They place the advancement of their careers before the wellbeing of the people.
Feeling the pressure of time, the central authorities don’t mince words; they are exerting increasing pressure on governments at different levels.
Officials who make decisions regardless of their serious consequences will be held accountable and the responsibility will be lifelong.
Since 2015, three rounds of environment inspection have been made by inspection teams dispatched by the central committee of the Party, scrutinizing officials’ performance in pollution control.
Hopefully, the high-pressure measures will make a difference.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)