Nowadays, many countries face various problems such as economic crises, ethnic conflicts, growth of the world population, ecological problems, and others. Some of them have an unfavorable influence on the world, creating quite uncomfortable conditions, while others can even endanger people’s life. All these problems represent a significant level of disaster. China is not exception in this situation. Thus, the aim of this essay is to discuss the pollution problems of China, explain the reasons and impacts of this issue.
The problem of pollution is becoming more important in the process of economic growth. Since the reforms were implemented in 1978, China experienced a significant growth with an average annual GDP growth of 9.6% from 1979 to 2009. Despite the impressive economic indicators, the quality of environment has been getting worse over the past two decades. The deterioration of the environment quality begins to affect the quality of life and even becomes a threat to the survival of humanity. In recent years, more and more attention is paid to Chinese environmental issues. Scientists are faced with the problem of combination of high economic growth and protection of the environment.
The reason for ecological crisis in China is a long-term policy that is aimed at achieving maximum economic growth in conditions of absolute population growth. In addition, the fragmentation of society and opposition of economic interests of different social groups prevent the formation of a single environmental awareness, careful attitude to the conservation and use of natural resources.
China is facing serious environmental degradation since 1970, which attracts constant attention of the international community. Time Magazine states that “…16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are Chinese” (Walsh n.pag.). The New York Times reported that “Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union” (Kahn n.pag.).
Using coal as fuel inflicts a huge damage on the environment and human health. Combustion of coal products is the main source of air pollution in China. The share of the country accounted for 13.5% of global emissions of carbon dioxide and 15.1% of sulfur dioxide. According to the Guardian:
Air pollution will become the biggest health threat in China unless the government takes greater steps to monitor and publicise the dangers of smog… Lung cancer and cardiovascular illnesses are already rising and could get worse in the future because of factory emissions, vehicle exhausts and cigarette smoke… (Watts n.pag.).
Emissions of pollutants cause the “acid rain” and thick smog over Beijing and other major cities. Thus, the quality of air in China makes people more and more anxious about it. Today, two-thirds of Chinese cities are substandard for the air quality, and half of emissions into the atmosphere are caused by road transport.
The intensive use of fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, which contributed to a significant increase in crop yields, became the source of contamination of groundwater, rivers, lakes, and marine waters. The main suppliers of dirty industrial effluents are a fast-growing company and paper, chemical, textile and food industries, because there is a little amount of waste disposal plants in China.
Waste plays not less important role in the water pollution. Almost half of the population lives in the areas where the need for clean water is not satisfied. A lot of chemical companies are located around the Yangtze River and drain there a large amount of harmful toxic waste. As a result, hundreds of millions of people, who use water from the Yangtze River, are in danger. “Ecologists are certain that about 80 percent o the River of China is so polluted that not only is the water unsuitable for drinking but also to be used in industry” (Simpson n.pag.)
Due to the increase of emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O in China, it is possible to predict annual increase in the average temperature from 0.5 to 0.8° C, which is higher than global average increase. The temperature change in the Northwest and Northeast regions of China is noticeable, especially in winter. From 1986 to 2005, China had twenty consecutive warm winters. It is anticipated that by 2020, the temperature in China will rise by 1,3-2,1° C, and by 2050 – 2,3-3,3 ° C.
Pollution in China has a huge impact on the health of population. Cancer, especially lung cancer, is the first cause of deaths among people (thirty percent). Heart diseases, insults and various respiratory diseases (with eighty percent of all deaths) are in the second place. The reasons for these diseases are stress and pollution.
Chinese government is aware of the inevitability of environmental threats and makes serious efforts to protect and improve the environment in China. Now, the situation is quite different from what was during the reign of Mao. People were mobilized so that China could quickly reach the industrial and agricultural development due to the run out of natural resources. China is actively promoting policies and measures to mitigate climate change. The country also adopted a number of policies and succeeded in regulating the structure of the economy and energy save. China is improving the efficiency of energy consumption and optimizing energy structures, as well as plantations. The Government of China is trying to make the legislative work with regards to ecology. Environmental legislation began in 1978. According to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Article 26,
The state protects and improves the living environment and the ecological environment and prevents and controls pollution and other public hazards. The state organizes and encourages afforestation and the protection of forests (Constitution of the People’s Republic of China n.pag.).
The development of alternative energy sources belongs to the main priorities of the energy policy of China.
By 2020, the amount of energy obtained with the help of water and sun is expected to increase by fifteen percent. A significant step towards this goal is constructing the world’s largest solar power plant, which capacity will be equal to two nuclear power plants. According to RIA Novosti, “The total capacity of the new energy-generation facility is estimated at 2 gigawatts, which is 30 times more than the capacity of the current world’s largest solar power plant in Olmedilla, Spain (60 megawatts)” (“China to Build World’s Largest Solar Power Plant” n.pag.). A giant object should appear in the desert by 2019. Gigantic power plant will provide nearly three million households in China with electricity and exceed the size of the biggest current solar power in Germany.
Thus, a terrible environmental situation in China has forced the government to pay attention to the alternative energy program. In addition, in order to improve the environmental situation in China and the world in general, China must balance their policies on the basis of equivalence priorities of economic development and environmental conservation.