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Environmental issues cloud China's future, experts say

smoke stack
The government is cracking down on businesses that violate regulations

CNN's May Lee reports on the growing concern over China's pollution problems
Windows Media 28K 80K


April 19, 1999
Web posted at: 6:18 p.m. EDT (2218 GMT)

From Correspondent May Lee

SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- China's economic future may be assured, but its environmental prospects are murky, experts say. That's particularly apparent in country's economic capital, Shanghai, a city that's literally choking on pollution of its air and water.

Authorities say just 67 percent of the city's air is breathable and that the rest is contaminated with arsenic, lead and mercury -- elements found in coal, a widely used energy source.

The city's waterways also are polluted, thanks to uncontrolled dumping of sewage and industrial waste.

Shanghai was one of the first Chinese cities to set up an environment monitoring center. But scientists there admit their equipment is not up to the challenge of cleaning up the city.

"The key problem we have, I think, is funding," says Lou Hailin of the monitoring center. "China's spending on environmental protection may have risen in proportion to its GDP. But it's not enough to cover the environmental needs."

In an effort to clean up Shanghai's air, city officials are cracking down on businesses that violate regulations on industrial gas emissions.

They've cut down on dangerous vehicular exhaust by forcing 3,000 taxis to use unleaded fuel.

Shanghai also has demonstrated its commitment to fighting water pollution by setting aside $1 billion to clean up the Suzhou River.

But city residents say they have yet to see results.

"They have made a lot of propaganda," one resident said. "I think if they can really do what they have said, things will be better. But as of now, I do not really think they have done enough."

China's people are aware that unless more drastic measures are taken immediately, the country could be headed for a large-scale environmental disaster.

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The National Environmental Protection Agency of China
China Environment
Cleaner Production in China
China 2000 - Checking pollution
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