CHINA: Environment Day marked by expansion of daily air quality reports

The Chinese government chose World Environment Day, 5 June, to extend its daily air quality reports from a dozen cities to a total of 41 provincial capitals and coastal cities. Six more coastal cities will be added to the programme once automated monitoring equipment is installed.

China’s Environmental Protection Administration announced that in 1999 the country’s spending to combat pollution of all types had reached one percent of GDP.

Xie Zhenhua, minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), promised that government efforts would continue to increase and that environmental evaluations of large infrastructure projects are necessary. China Daily quoted from Xie’s speech: “Developing a local economy first at the cost of environment, then later trying to recover it is the most unwise way to develop an economy”.

Poor air quality in China’s cities is one of the country’s greatest environmental problems (see related story), as is water pollution, water shortage and desertification. People Daily reports that 93 million hectares of farmland are polluted with pesticides and that pesticide residues in vegetables and fruit often exceed standards. Expansion of desert land is calculated at 2,400 km² per year, with 2.62 million km² already desert.

In Hong Kong, Environment Day was marked with efforts to reduce private vehicle use. The Commissioner for Transport rode on Hong Kong’s first liquefied petroleum gas minibus and the Joint Council of the Travel Industry of Hong Kong launched its campaign to encourage drivers of tourist vehicles to switch off their engines while they wait for their passengers.

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