While the rest of the world frets about China building two coal-fuelled power stations a week, the sorry state of air and water quality in China has led to rising public protests. Citizens and officials alike are urging the country to crack down on polluters. According to Grist (www.grist.org), in the first five months of 2007 the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) received 1,814 citizen petitions demanding a cleaner environment: an eight-per-cent increase over the same period last year.
There’s certainly room for improvement. Last year, more than a quarter of the length of China’s seven main river systems was deemed unfit for human contact. In a recent survey of 75 waste-water treatment plants, half didn’t work properly – or at all. The central government talks tough on pollution, but local leaders are said still to cater to industry. So SEPA officials are now threatening to deny bank loans to flagrant polluters. ‘Environmental protection officers and enforcement staff must stand up when the time demands,’ says SEPA’s Zhou Shengxian. ‘Dare to struggle against polluting behaviour!’