China’s increasing financial and economic assertiveness suggests its star is only set to rise on the world stage and that has prompted some major swagger on the part of its leaders. Swagger the nation’s long-term view doesn’t warrant. Commentary by John Robson.
Mass protests are a growing fixture in China’s grassroots’ not-in-my-back-yard environmental justice movement. A lightning rod for public action concerns PX plants – chemical factories located elsewhere in the world that do not incite large-scale protests the way they do in China. Yet the Chinese government cannot convince citizens they are “no more harmful than a cup of coffee.”
A Chinese court has agreed to hear a lawsuit filed by an environmental NGO seeking $US4.8-million in damages from an industrial polluter in Shandong province — thought to be the first public interest litigation for air pollution under China’s new environmental law. ChinaFile reports.
Chinese citizens and industry are both willing to do their part to help turnaround the country’s water crisis, according to a new survey, but they don’t see how without a mechanism that allows the government, industry and end users to work together. Could that missing mechanism be market discipline, rule of law and citizen empowerment?
China’s ambitious South-to-North Water Diversion project officially begins flowing next month and the impacts of the costly geo-engineering giant are starting to be felt in the regions tapped to redistribute water to the country’s parched north. “This project from the beginning has been as controversial as the Three Gorges,” says Probe International fellow and leading Chinese environmental journalist, Dai Qing.
While there is no doubt China’s industry-heavy northeast is parched, some critics say China’s geo-engineering South-North Water Diversion project is yet another example of China trying to engineer its way out of a problem that could be largely solved through better policies, such as a tiered pricing system for water and better monitoring. Stian Reklev for Reuters reports.
(October 28, 2013) This excellent report by Agence France-Presse looks at the growing number of drawbacks posed by China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project and asks whether the $80-billion geo-engineering giant is creating more problems than it is supposed to solve. For example, the strong risk of collecting and distributing tainted water from the supply waterways it draws from, which would render the water carried unusable; the energy required to move water uphill for long sections; the displacement of entire communities in large numbers for reservoir construction, as well as the construction feats required to pull off certain aspects of the project’s plans – such as blasting channels through mountains in earthquake zones on the Tibetan plateau. Not to mention the threat posed by construction of this scale in seismically active zones.
(October 21, 2013) Scientists are using medical technology to study the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise and their critical sense of hearing, used for navigation, to understand how these mammals are managing in the very busy and loud waters of China’s high-traffic Yangtze River. “In a noisy environment, they’d have a hard time hearing their prey or their friend. It makes it more difficult for them to conduct basic biological activities such as foraging, communicating, and navigating in the river,” said biologist and lead author of the survey, Aran Mooney.
(July 3, 2013) Water woes ranging from polluted drinking water to contaminated groundwater reserves and toxic rivers, to cross-border water disputes with neighbours over transboundary river flows, is moving China towards a catastrophe with “profound implications.” In testimony to the U.S. Senate last week, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Asia director Elizabeth Economy names industry as the key culprit. The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.com reports.
(July 19, 2013) Images show the ugly side of China’s grand dam and its effects on the country’s beloved Yangtze River: rubbish crusts, floating islands of garbage — a plague of filth and issues that exacerbate existing problems and introduce new dangers. Policymic.com reports.
(June 25, 2013) The Danjiangkou Reservoir, a major supply source for China’s high-cost South-North Water Diversion project — slated to provide Beijing with water by 2014 — is heavily polluted with untreated sewage. Lax enforcement of environmental laws and a shortage of funds are making the situation worse, says the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. A deeper problem is the absence of legislation governing water sources, China Daily reports.
(May 31, 2013) The process of diverting water from the Yangtze River through the eastern route of China’s massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project began this week after 11 years since construction began. Although the water diversion intended for drought-prone cities in China’s arid northern regions “will enrich the water supply in the north, its impact on the ecosystem is irreversible,” said Ma Jun, an environmentalist.
(May 24, 2013) The new dawn of Chinese activism: organic, leaderless and technology-driven. This report by journalist Monica Tan looks at the rise of public protest in China, how activism has moved away from a select high-profile few to become a growing movement made up of ordinary people – ‘lao baixing’ – determined to stand up for their environment. Technology enables large masses of people to get the word out and to assemble at low risk: no one and everyone leads. Some see this grassroots’ movement as the road to democracy and accountability for China.
(March 27, 2013) Pollution is once again a dire concern in the wake of China’s formal acknowledgement last month of cancer hotspots, known as “cancer villages,” long speculated to be caused by drinking and irrigation water contaminated by industrial chemicals and heavy metals. More recently, unmanageable garbage sites have posed a threat to Beijing’s drinking water supply. As China’s new leadership moves to clean up the country, citizens still lack access to information that would help them help both their health and their environment but that’s not stopping them from Twittering towards change.
(March 4, 2013) Beneath China’s thirsty farms and cities lies a problem scientists and politicians have known about for more than a decade: groundwater reserves that are depleted and polluted. Grand plans to cover one-third of China’s land area with 20,000 groundwater monitoring stations remain stuck in Beijing. Without monitoring data to influence policy, the problem isn’t taken seriously by government, and business won’t pick up the slack: there’s no profit for money spent on groundwater, save the public health benefit, which no one wants to pay for. Feng Jie reports on China’s groundwater scandal for Southern Weekend.