China’s Environment in the Year of the Tiger

At the Guardian, Jonathan Watts looks back at environmental stories from the past year, including tigers, droughts, floods, traffic jams and oil spills.

Also marked is the death of Liang Congjie, founder of China’s first environmental NGO. A retrospective at China Dialogue, after cataloguing the year’s disasters and institutional failures, celebrates the achievements of Liang’s successors:

The authorities may have tried to shift blame onto the public, but it was actually the public – or civil society – that was responsible for year’s environmental bright spots. In April, the IPE and 33 other Chinese NGOs published a report on heavy-metal pollution in IT supply chains, which called on 27 global technology companies to audit their suppliers. In May, Green Watershed and nine other Chinese campaign groups published a report on the environmental record of the country’s banking sector, advocating green lending policies and a reduction in loans to energy-hungry and dirty projects.

In July, NGOs sent open letters to the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges, asking them to expose Zijin Mining’s deliberate delay in publishing environmental information. Non-profit group Huai River Warrior provided rural residents along the river with biological water purifiers, while the Alishan Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology launched a “Green Leadership” training course.

This list demonstrates the increasing maturity of non-governmental environmental forces in terms of both organisation and activities. The facts show that, where there is transparency, public participation is the best way to deal with corporate and governmental failings. The Chinese public is starting to participate on a large scale in environmental affairs that are closely related to their interests and health – through investigations and surveys and social activism, and by engaging in legislation, reporting pollution, attending public hearings and fighting for their rights. In doing this, the public is coming together to form a more active civil society. This is the Year of the Tiger’s real good news.


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