Wednesday, July 30, 2008

China's enormous pollution problems

China has some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world:

This is a photo of the Jiuzhaigou valley in Sichuan province, central-western China. Stunningly beautiful. Often called "China's Yosemite".

Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve
Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve lies in Jiuzhaigou County, northwest of Sichuan Province in the southern part of Minshan Mountains, approximately 400 kilometers from Chengdu City. Established in 1978, the Reserve covers an area of 60,000 hectares with its name stemming from 9 Tibetan villages nearby. Luxuriant forests and snow peaks in Jiuzhaigou make it a spectacular gem of nature. Jiuzhaigou is a comprehensive nature reserve, its main protection targets are pandas, other rare wildlife and forest ecosystem. In 1992, it was listed in the World's Natural Heritage, and three years later, it was included in the International Man and Biosphere Reserve Network of UNESCO. [...]

That particular area may be protected, but the rest of China is experiencing severe problems from pollution. From Peter Navarro at Asia Times On-line:

China's pollution Olympics
Sometimes it's the little stories that tell us the most. Consider the news of a keel-crippling algal bloom covering a third of the Olympic sailing course in Qingdao, China. While a small army of workers, a large armada of boats, and a full battalion of dump trucks and bulldozers are desperately trying to clear up this embarrassing counterpoint to China's claim of a "green games", international competitors desperate for practice are forced to stew in dry dock.

In fact, this kind of event is far from atypical in the world's most polluted nation. Today, fully 70% of China's seven major rivers are severely polluted, 80% of its rivers fail to meet standards for fishing, and 90% of the country's cities suffer from some degree of water pollution. As a result, over 700 million Chinese drink fetid water of a quality well below World Health Organization standards. Meanwhile, liver and stomach cancers related to water pollution are among the leading causes of death in the countryside, while 21 cities along the Yellow River are characterized by the highest measurable levels of pollution.

As for this particular - and particularly extensive - algal bloom in Qingdao, it is being caused in large part by equally massive misuse of fertilizer. As the world's largest fertilizer user, China consumes more than 50 million tonnes annually. Far too often, untrained peasants apply far too much fertilizer to their meager plots in the false hopes of boosting yields. The result has been a new kind of "flooding" problem, that of excess fertilizer runoff flooding into rivers and streams. [...]

Bold emphasis mine. Read the whole thing for more details. Is it any wonder they ship us contaminated food? They are choking to death on their own air and water pollution. They are having their industrial revolution in the information age. Instead of hiding information, they need to use information to become informed about consequences, and clean up their act, literally. For their sake and ours.

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