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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - July 5, 2002: Conditions in China - 2002-07-01

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Environmental officials in China say the government has taken steps to reduce pollution in the country. However, they say there are still serious environmental problems. The country is dealing with water and air pollution, land destruction and technological waste.

The State Environmental Protection Administration has released its yearly report about the condition of China’s environment. The report says the government will invest about eighty-five-thousand-million dollars in a clean-up campaign during the next ten years.

Zhu Guangyao is vice minister of China’s environmental protection agency. He says water pollution is one of the most serious problems. Mister Zhu says all seven of the country’s major river systems and several major lakes are polluted with poisonous chemicals and other waste. Rivers near cities are the most severely affected.

Mister Zhu says acid rain containing harmful sulfur dioxide falls over ninety percent of the cities in southern and eastern China. Acid rain is caused by industrial pollution. It affects one-third of the country.

The report says two-thirds of Chinese cities have unacceptable levels of air pollution. Mister Zhu notes that some cities, such as Beijing, have improved their air. He says this improvement is partly a result of the city reducing its dependence on burning coal for energy. Beijing is getting more of its energy from natural gas and water power.

Mister Zhu says China is also fighting land destruction, which is ruining two-million hectares of grassland a year. He says ninety percent of China’s natural grasslands have been damaged. One-hundred-thirty-five hectares of land have become desert areas.

Mister Zhu says a lack of water and strong winds are the main reasons why these areas have become deserts. But he says the activities of people make the problem much worse. These include cutting down too many trees, having too many animals eating grasses and wasting water.

China is also dealing with a new environmental threat from illegal imports of old computers and other technological waste. Officials say such waste releases dangerous chemicals into the air and water. Environmental officials say China is taking steps to stop these illegal imports which they say come mostly from the United States.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.