Translated by CDT from Southern Breeze magazine:
To Chinese environmental officials, scientists and NGOs, 2007 has been the worst year, and the best year. It’s the worst year because of a spate of major environmental cases across the country: the blue algae bloom in Lake Tai, the rat disaster around Lake Dongting, the near-failure of 10 years of pollution control efforts along the Huai River, the delay of the east route of South-North water conversion project due to water pollution, the pollution at Lake Dian in Kunming and East Lake in Wuhan, etc.
It’s been the best year thanks to the public victory over the PX plant case in Xiamen, where engagement of civil society has pushed the plant out of the city largely due to its potential pollution to the coastal town.
Unlike previous years and incidents such as the chemical spill in the Songhua River, 2007’s cases are mostly the outbreaks of accumulated problems over many years, and this added to the difficulty for the government to manage the damage control. Pollution, more and more, has become a daily burden on the shoulders of the Chinese public, and, moreover, a major political sore spot for the governing party.
The government of course is keenly aware of this problem and its magnitude in the equation. Environment was mentioned 16 times in this year’s Party Congress, a big jump from six mentions five years ago. In Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s work report delivered earlier this year, he mentioned the environment 48 times. And by year’s end, a new official assessment regime was put in place to link officialdom with achievement in protecting the environment.
Still, there are problems, one of them being the strong momentum of local levels of government to pursue economic development at all costs since the reforms kicked off by late leader Deng Xiaoping. A big job is for the central leaders to get the message across to local functionaries that environment is a key, if not more important than GDP. [Full Text in Chinese]