Monday, 2 June 2014

The Environmental Costs of China's Economic Growth

In China, there are a myriad of environmental issues with pollution being a major aspect. These environmental issues continue to pose immense economic challenges for China’s posterity and today’s generation. The industrialization of China has bred varied pollution forms. This has resulted to health, environmental problems, and most importantly, economic challenges. World Bank lists 16 Chinese cities out of the 20 most polluted. While air pollution is a global problem both in the indoor and outdoor environment, in the introduction of biological materials, particulates, chemicals, as well as other dangerous materials in the atmosphere in China is catastrophic. The Chinese Medical Association (CMA) warned that the biggest health hazard is air pollution. Air pollution in China has stemmed the need for economic review studies and economic meta-analysis pooling short-term health influences of the air pollutants in other countries. These challenges are correlated with China’s economic development.  

China’s economic growth for the last few decades due to industrial activities has been rapid. For this reason, industrial and motor vehicles emissions have been on the rise. In comparison to other countries like United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US), health effects of air pollution have increased. This is because they remain unmeasured. The Asia’s PAPA studies, China’s four Kan reports, Zhou’s report on Yangtze Delta remain the only studies carried to this effect. It follows that a comprehensive meta-analysis is inevitable to consider the adverse effects posed by China’s air pollution on the entire Chinese population and the world as a whole.  

It is estimated that about 450,000-550,000 people in China die prematurely in China due to air pollution.  Both indoor and outdoor pollution has been skyrocketing to unprecedented levels. It is evident that a majority of people in Hong Kong and China are breathing very dirty air posing terrible threats. The severity of the air pollution problem is insurmountable. China cannot continue ignoring the health and economic risks posed by air pollution. In Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, smog hangs heavily. Moreover, a number of Chinese children are growing up with respiratory diseases such as asthma. It equally increases the preponderance of premature death and cancer.  

About 113 cities in China do not meet the country’s air standards. According to government sources, a fifth of the urban cities in China are polluted by air heavily. Most places smell like leaded gasoline and high-sulphur coal. Only a third of the 340 cities meet the national pollution standards. The smog-filled cities in China are ringed with metal smelters, coal-powered plants, and heavy industries. They are essential in ensuring that China remains a fast-growing economy (EU, 2006). Tons of soot, gases, metals, and carbon are spew in the air every day. Smog and air pollution in Shanghai and Beijing are so bad at times, such that airports are closed due to poor visibility. New York’s air quality is 16 times better than that of Beijing. Under the E.U., only 1% of the 560 million urban city dwellers are considered to breathe safe air. 

It is evident that coal constitutes major air pollution source in China. China gets 70% of its energy power from coal with 80% of electricity coming from the same source. Much of this is high-sulphur coal, which is polluting. Low-grade gasoline and expanding heavy traffic and car ownership contributes hugely towards China’s air pollution. Before the Olympics in 2008, polls conducted showed that 74% of the Chinese had concerns regarding air pollution and they considered it a major challenge. 

Moreover, the use of coal cost China about $248 billion. This is about 7.1% of the GDP. Furthermore, coal fires have culminated to massive deaths, promoted spontaneous combustion, and illegal mining. Surprisingly, in Wuhan, asphalt and old tires are used in fueling pottery kilns resulting to nasty air pollution. Equally, cement plants contribute the highest degree of air pollution in China. Production of dust and high-energy consumption for combustion is immense. According to a Shaghai Municipal report, the period between between 2000-2008 has seen an increase in China’s GDP and the overall economic development and so has population, motor vehicle use, energy consumption, and the amount of air pollutants.

Residents of China’s major cities have learnt how to gauge the level of air pollution before leaving their abodes. During smoggy days, their lungs ache. Air-quality measurements by the government have been necessitated by the ever-increasing air pollution levels. PM damage the respiratory systems. The government has been forced to issue public-health notices. People are at times cautioned to avert outdoor physical activities. The use of coal in China poses innumerable health problems. In Shanxi and Gaojiagao towns, coal use has been said to cause defects like additional toes and fingers, neural tube problems, congenital heart diseases, as well as mental retardation. This has resulted to strained health care systems as well as commodity prices manipulation.

 The skyrocketing of China’s economy has come at an expensive price. Factories, heavy industries, and factories are belching dirty and black air at the expense of the health of the Chinese people as well as the entire environmental. The sustainable of this process leaves a lot to be desired. The emergence of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in China such as Greenpeace runs campaigns aiming at reduction of air pollution. About 10% of the land area in China has been shrouded by thick smog most recently. A PM2.5 is harmful for human health.

The 2006 Chinese estimate of green Gross Domestic Product (GDP) state that air pollution and other forms of pollution cost 3.05% 2004’s national economy. SEPA and a World Bank report approximated the air water and air pollution cost to 2.68% by 2003. This is equivalent to about 5.8% of GDP. A review in 2009 state a 2%-10% GDP range. In 2012, a study showed that pollution posed little impact on China’s economic growth. This is primarily because China’s economic growth is premised upon expansion of physical capital as well as escalating energy consumption. This is because of the high dependency on heavy and manufacturing industries. China continues to grow due to its use of polluting and energy-inefficient industries.  

Growth rewards in China may be opposed because it may yield harmful effects lest enhanced environmental protection measures are instituted. Haikou, Beihai, Guilin, Zhanjiang, and Zhuhai are China’s environmentally friendly towns. Effective air pollution controls are exercised in Fuzhou, Suzhou, Shenyang, Lianyungang, and Nantong, while Louyang, Zhuzhou, Xi An, Shijiazhuang, Jinchang, Sanmenxia, Shizuishan, Datong, Yangquan, and Linfen are the worst air-quality cities in China. Premature deaths were estimated to be 1.2 million in China. This accounts for about 40% of the world’s total. Researchers point out that the toll of China’s pollution is a 25 years loss of healthy life years from the entire population.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that air pollution would become a top environmental mortality cause not only in China, but also in the whole world by 2050. Air pollution will lead environmental morality causes ahead of poor sanitation and dirty water. OECD estimates that about 3.7 million persons may die prematurely due to air pollution. This would be mostly in India and China culminating to loss human resources and market. This consequently poses unprecedented impacts upon the China’s economy as a whole. More importantly, the Chinese government faces the threat accruing from the growing outrange especially in cities in China. This is as a result of what may be regarded as untenable air pollution levels.  

Most recent reports by the Chinese government indicate that the cost accruing from environmental degradation is to the tune of over $230 billion as of 2010. This over 3.5% of China’s GDP. This was a partial estimate released by the Environmental Protection Ministry. This figure was over three times that reported in 2004 demonstrating an increase in the level and cost of environmental degradation in China. Health care as well as premature deaths come along with both explicit as well as implicit costs resulting from air pollution as well as other forms of pollution.  

China experiences the highest number of pollution-related deaths according to WHO (2007), about 656,000 people in China died prematurely due to air-pollution-related ailments due to outdoor and indoor air pollution. Babies have low-birth weight. Lungs’ functioning has been depressed. About 26% of deaths in China are related to air pollution. Asthma has been on the rise as well as other respiratory diseases. In China’s rural areas, respiratory diseases have been the leading killer. The number of lung cancer instances for increased by 56% between 2000 and 2008. Economically, air pollution has resulted to reduction in crop production, which risk the health of human resources that can reduce labor productivity.

 Environmental activists have succeeded to persuade the Chinese governments scale back a plan to dam the remote and beautiful Nu River. The economic effects of the negative externalities accruing from this have made activists in rural areas are very outspoken. This has posed threats of beatings, jail, as well as other forms of harassment. This is primarily because air polluters have closer ties with local governments. The Chinese government fear protests. However, these protesters have little impact in curbing air pollution. The middle-class urban Chinese hold street protests and demonstrations against the chemical plants. These plants emit paraxylene compound used in manufacture of polyester. The government only makes promises but these plants continue to operate. Some leading environmentalists like Ma Jun used database by the government’s air pollution data in pressurizing companies to reduce air pollution as well as build public awareness.
The Chinese government has embarked on drastic measures to reduce the disease burden related to air pollution through improving the ambience of air quality. This has been occasioned by the need to sustain the level of economic growth both now and for posterity. This is upon realization that children are the most vulnerable to air pollution that is ambient. This is primarily because they spend a lot of time outdoors and a rather physically active. Moreover, their ventilation rates are higher as compared to adults. The chronic effects of air pollution are on the rise. When children are exposed to particulate matters (PMs), the risk bronchitis and coughs. Hong Kong, which is located in Southern China, is endowed with sub-tropical climate. Air pollution reduction have been on the rise since 1990. This has been the case due to implementation of many government regulations involving restriction of fuel sulphur content. Most recently, there has been a slowdown in progress improvement. This is because of the influence by the problem of air pollution in Southern China.

While Beijing is not the city with the worst level of air pollution, it hosts many government officials and foreign journalists. This has hastened the government to declare that there would be closure of schools as well as restriction of traffic if pollution continues to exceed to particular levels. This is because smoggy stretches continue to be experienced in major towns in China. Implementation of such measures continues to be introduced and the government weighing in the event that these measures are not implemented. In such instances, the Chinese government unleashes biting but rarely criticism stemming from powerful state-owned media.

However, there is need to reach a national consensus to the effect that air pollution is declared a problem. Drinking water was cut off in 2005 during winter when an 80KM benzene slick flowed in Songhua River, which denied many Chinese as well as some Russians water (Liu et al, 2008). This prompted the government to institute measures and exert concerted efforts towards addressing water quality. The Communist Party however, does not allow the citizenry to play a very big role as far as air pollution’s reduction measures are concerned. Outspoken critics are reined in with the government’s full force. This is similar to the Communist Party’s anti-corruption purges. Xu Zhiyong and other activists who asked government officials formally and publicly disclose their assets were jailed. Parochial and political patronage has negative effects in the Chinese economy.  

Leading Chinese environments are harnessing any public information relating to air pollution with economic growth sustainability in mind. However, stakes hinder government’s air pollution efforts. The government should enlist citizens in occasionally publishing data relating to industrial air pollution sources. Top-down fashion policies will ensure participatory transformation into real environment governance. This is because periodic campaigns have failed to yield tangible benefits in reducing air pollution. 

Planning of land use is important in reducing air pollution. Transport infrastructural planning and zoning is important in proper land use. This will help realize optimal and meaningful economic growth and development and will equally help reduce air pollution.  China should bolster the use of mechanical collectors and electrostatic precipitators that help in collection of particulates. An electronic precipitator helps in removing particles from flowing gases like air. This enhances efficient filtration and save economic resources. Bag-houses will equally help China control air pollution through collection of dust. Particulate, wet, spray, mechanically aided, ejector venturi, and baffle spray scrubbers serve as a control technology for air pollution. 

The Chinese government has announced a proper timeline to be applied when introducing new-fangled fuel standards. However, state-owned power and oil companies have been known to ignore or block environmental policies effected by saving costs. This has been detrimental in ensuring that pollution of air in China is subjected to standards as well as other controls with the aim of mitigating its innumerable results. Such measures to reduce the level of air pollution, has seen a reduction in the amount of concentration of air pollution between 1980-2005. According to an Environmental Protection agency report (2007), the reduction has seen concentrations of air pollutants go down with Ozone (20%), Nitrogen dioxide (37%), PM (40%), carbon monoxide (74%), and lastly, lead (96%).

Statistics on air pollution are crucial if the impacts are to be mitigated, and China’s slowing of disclosure of such information in about 113 cities is detrimental. Promisingly, Chinese officials are making progress in terms of releasing such data. Most recently, data for PM levels have been disclosed in 74 cities (Haerens, 2011). It is important that the Chinese government further fast tracks disclosure of information relating to air pollution and give environmentalists a chance to spearhead these measures through a more participatory. To curtail the effects of air pollution, this process should ensure that the Chinese people play a vital role by owning the air-pollution-reduction measures. Such efforts will see the government take a leading role by accepting that air pollution is indeed a national disaster, which continue to breed discontent among the Chinese people and may even spill over to the extent that demonstrations and street protests take centre-stage. Reduction of air pollution concentrations has increased economic growth and development sustainability in China. 

China’s level of air pollution reached unprecedented levels in 2013, being the highest over the last 52 years. About 13 provinces have been hit by record-high air pollution levels. China’s has laid down a 5-year action plan intended to bolster environmental regulation, planning, and technology. Reward for energy efficiency and high pollution fines exist. Reduction of heavy pollution as well as enhancing air quality has become inevitable. Real time meteorological towers as well as remote sensing have become instrumental in tracking air pollutants. The application of existing technologies in a rather extensive manner has culminated to cleaner emissions out of power stations. Coal-power is being replaced by gas- and electric-fired systems. Moreover, plans to lessen road congestion have been intensified. Improving taxation and pricing policies have been instituted to bolster private investments in pollution control technologies.

 In China, ambient air smog is poor in comparison to other developed countries of Asia-Pacific, North America, and Europe region and has immense economic effects as exhibited in this paper. This has continued to increase respiratory morbidities for most Chinese people rendering them incapable of effectively undertaking economic activities. This paper has demonstrated that indeed, air pollution remains a chief environmental health hazard in both developed and developing countries. Approximately 1.3 million people die prematurely every year due to ambient pollution of air. People residing in cities that are less populated have better cardiovascular and respiratory health. Patients spend immense amounts of economic resources to treat these diseases. The reaching of air pollution to a crisis stage in China has prompted China’s Prime Minister, Li Keqiang promised that the country would instate and implement strong policy measures in reduction and air, soil, as well as water control earlier in March 2014.

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