According to state-owned news agency Xinhua research conducted by the All-China Federation on Environmental Protection almost 95% of those quizzed on environmental degradation considered it a ‘burning issue that must be tackled immediately’.

The survey was carried out to assess public opinion in the build up to the publication of China’s eleventh Five Year Plan, which will steer national policy from 2006 to 2010.

While there was a consensus on the need to address environmental problems, opinion varied widely on how best to do this.

A perhaps surprising 45.7% put protecting the environment before the economic development of the country.

A huge majority, 80.5% believed priority should be given to combating air pollution and 91.8% of them blamed emission from transport for the problem in built up areas.

Concerns over poor water quality closely followed those of air pollution, with 64.4% of those polled saying that water polluters should face heavy fines.

Even figures from the state bear out the public concerns that the Chinese environment is suffering.

Official figures indicate that 90% of the rivers flowing through cities in the country have been heavily polluted, and nearly 300 million people in rural areas do not have access to sanitary water.

Nearly one-third of the urban population breathes heavily polluted air and acid rain has ravaged one-third of the country’s land.

According to Xinhua the Chinese government has gradually increased spending on environmental protection over the past decades, with such spending accounting for 1.3% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2004.

If the state does take on board people’s concerns it should have no shortage of willing hands to help implement environmental policies – almost 93% of those taking part in the survey said they would be happy to work as volunteers to protect the environment.

By Sam Bond

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