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The State of the Environment of China in 2008
Article type: Translated

Ministry of Environmental Protection

In 2008, China's environmental protection system achieved great success in response to environmental emergency accidents caused by unprecedented natural disasters and in delivering satisfied environmental quality during the Beijing Olympics under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Positive progress was made in such aspects as pollution reduction, construction of environmental infrastructures, pollution control of major river basins, capacity building, environmental economic policies and the three major strategic programs, marking a solid foundation for historic transformation of environmental protection.

First, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have made important arrangements for environmental protection under the new circumstances. At the mobilization meeting on intensive study of Scientific Outlook on Development and a training session for provincial and ministerial-level officials, Secretary General Hu Jintao made a speech and recognized, for the first time, ecological civilization as a major constituent of the master plan for the great undertaking of building a socialist society with Chinese characteristics. Ecological civilization was elevated to a strategic position matched by economic, political, cultural and social development, charting a course for environmental protection work in the new era. Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Li Keqiang also highlighted on many occasions that we should spare no efforts in pollution reduction and ecological conservation, combine expansion of domestic consumption with the effort to improve people's well being and ecological environment so as to promote balanced and sustainable development. The first meeting of the 11th National People's Congress approved the establishment of Ministry of Environmental Protection with the aim of reinforcing its functions ranging from coordination, macro control, to supervision of law enforcement and public service, hence providing stronger institutional guarantee for advancing historic transformation of environmental protection.

Second, the environmental impact assessment system has played an important role in macro control. We have been active in addressing the international financial crisis by making prompt adjustment in environmental impact assessment, improving the approval mechanism, simplifying procedures, honoring seven commitments, opening up a green channel to qualified projects while exercising strict control over energy and resource-intensive and heavy pollution projects. In 2008, MEP denied or suspended 156 such projects and of the 579 projects given instructions, pollution reduction measures helped to cut down 468,600 tons of SO2 and 38,400 tons of COD annually.

Third, a breakthrough has been made in pollution reduction. The country newly added urban sewage treatment capacity by 11.49 million tons/day and 97.12 GW installed capacity with desulphurization facilities and shut down small thermal power plants with a capacity of 16.69 GW. Total discharge of COD and SO2 dropped by 4.42% and 5.95% respectively compared with that of 2007, a decrease of 6.61% and 8.95% respectively against that of 2005. For the first time the progress of our pollution reduction work was in keep with the timetable, laying a sound groundwork for achieving the target of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan period.

Fourth, we have accomplished emergency response to severe natural disasters and guaranteed environmental quality for Beijing Olympics. Environmental emergency response was launched to cope with the snowstorm in South China and the unprecedented earthquake in Wenchuan to ensure the safety of radiation environment and drinking water. Beijing cooperated with its neighboring five provinces (autonomous region and municipality) for full implementation of measures to guarantee air quality during the Olympic Games, honoring the earnest commitment to a Green Olympic Games and completing the task in success.

Fifth, steady progress has been made in prevention and control of pollution in river basins. Seven plans on water pollution control for the Huaihe River, Haihe River and so on have been approved by the State Council and put into operation. Ecological safety assessment on Taihu Lake, Chaohu Lake and the Three Gorges Reservoir area was made accompanied by full-scale eco-safety monitoring work, which paved the way for integrated management of lakes. We have launched a baseline investigation on concentrated drinking water sources in counties across the country, inspecting 15,000 source areas and urging over 4,600 protection areas to carry out rectification measures. This move further safeguarded drinking water safety for the public.

Sixth, environmental protection work has been unfolded in rural areas. The State Council held the first national teleconference on environmental protection in rural areas and put forward a set of important policies, such as giving incentives to environmental improvement in the form of reward and replacing subsidy by reward. The Central Government also set up a special fund for rural environmental protection, allocating 500 million Yuan to support environmental redress and ecological demonstration in 700 villages. This program generated nearly 1 billion Yuan local investment, benefiting over 4 million farmers. 

Seventh, intensified efforts have been made in supervision of law enforcement. We continued the special campaign to correct illegal polluting enterprises and safeguarding people's health. Inspections were made on hidden environmental dangers as well as urban sewage treatment plants and landfill sites. With mounting effort on expost supervision, we supervised 16,000 plus cases put on the rectification blacklist nationwide since 2005 and more than 8,000 papermaking companies inspected in 2007 and shut down 621 paper mills violating national industrial policy and total discharge standard. This helped to consolidate what we have achieved in this regard. 

We have strengthened routine review and supervision on the safety of nuclear power plants in service, tightened regulation and assessment of nuclear power plants under construction or to be built and stepped up management of radioactive sources to ensure the safety of nuclear and radiation environment.

Eighth, new achievement has been made in environmental legislation, policy, technology, publicity and education and international cooperation. The revised Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution was formally put into effect and environmental quality standard for noise was released for the first time together with emission standard for industrial enterprises and community noise. Active exploration was made on environmental economic policies such as green credit, green securities, green taxation and green insurance. Varied activities were organized for publicity and education on environmental protection and international environmental cooperation was developed in a more pragmatic manner.

Ninth, we have further built up our capacity. The Central Government invested 34 billion Yuan for environmental protection, an increase of more than 10 billion Yuan compared to that of 2007. With the implementation of the three major programs for pollution reduction, we will build 363 monitoring centers on pollution sources, 36 automatic water quality monitoring stations and add 3,900 cars for law enforcement, creating an information transmission system linking national, provincial, municipal and county network and three data analysis platforms. The satellite for monitoring environment and disaster was launched successfully.

Tenth, the three strategic programs are proceeding smoothly. General investigation of pollution sources entered the final stage for summary and release after completing such basic work as filling out forms, data input, quality control, data reporting and collection, examination and modification. Macro strategic study of China's environment was basically completed and the major technological program on control and treatment of water body pollution was started on a full scale.

Thanks to down-to-earth and effective work, the year 2008 saw obvious changes in some environmental quality indicators. The annual average concentration of permanganate index of surface water was 5.7 mg/L, down by 12.3 percentage points than last year and 20.8 percentage points than in 2005. It was the first time for this index to have ever reached national Grade III standard. The annual average concentration of SO2 in urban areas was 0.048 mg/m3, down by 7.7 percentage points than last year and 15.8 percentage points than that of 2005. It met Grade II national standard for ambient air quality. However, China was still confronted with serious environmental situation and the general environmental conditions were as follows:

First of all, surface water pollution remained very serious. The general water quality of the seven major waters including the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Pearl River, Songhua River, Huaihe River, Haihe River and Liaohe River were about the same as in last year. 55.0% of 409 sections in 200 rivers had water quality at Grade I~III national standards, 24.2% of them at Grade IV~V standards, and 20.8% worse than Grade V standard. The Pearl River and Yangtze River enjoyed good water quality, Songhua River was slightly polluted, Yellow River, Huaihe River and Liaohe River suffered from moderate pollution, and Haihe River was badly polluted. 46.2% of the 26 lakes (reservoirs) under national monitoring programs on their nutrition state suffered from eutrophication.

Second, the coastal areas nationwide were slightly polluted. 70.4% of coastal seawater had water quality at national Grade I and II standards, up 7.6 percentage points than last year; 11.3% of the seawater met Grade III national standard, about the same as last year; and 18.3% ranked at Grade IV national standard or worse, down 7.1 percentage points. Of the coastal areas of the major four seas, the Yellow Sea and South China Sea enjoyed good water quality, the Bohai Sea had common water quality and East China Sea had poor water quality. The proportion of seawater at Grade I and II national standards increased by more than 10% in the Bohai Bay, Yangtze River estuary, Pearl River estuary and Beibu Bay compared with that of last year.

Third, some cities had good air quality better than last year, but other cities still suffered from serious pollution. The acid rain distributed in about the same areas, but the pollution it caused was still grave. 519 cities across the country reported air quality data in 2008. 21 of them reached national Grade I standard for air quality, accounting for 4.0%; 378 ones was up to national Grade II standard, accounting for 72.8%; 113 cities hit Grade III standard, taking up 21.8%; and 7 failed to meet Grade III standard, accounting for 1.4%. 71.6% of the country's cities at or above prefecture level had qualified water quality, and 85.6% of county-level cities managed to do so.

The air quality in 113 major cities on environmental protection turned better. 57.5% of them had air quality up to Grade II national standard, 41.6% up to Grade III standard, and 0.9% had air quality worse than Grade III standard. 13.3% more cities had air quality up to standard compared with last year, and the proportion of cities failing to reach Grade III standard did not change.

Fourth, 71.7% of the country's cities enjoyed good or relatively good regional acoustic environment, and 75.2% of the 113 major cities on environmental protection managed to do so. 65.3% of the cities across the country had good road acoustic environment, and 93.8% of the 113 major cities on environmental protection enjoyed good or relatively good road acoustic environment. 86.4% of the function zones in all cities met standard for acoustic environment at day, and 74.7% of them met standard at night.

Fifth, the radiation environmental quality across the country was good at large. The ionizing radiation level remained stable, and the radiation near nuclear facilities and equipment was within the normal range. The electromagnetic radiation level was also good. The comprehensive field strengthen in parts of several high-power radiators exceeded the national standards, but the radiation levels near other electromagnetic radiators were up to national standards.

Sixth, some progress was made in ecological construction. By the end of 2008, 2,538 nature reserves of all kinds at all levels had been established across the country, covering a total area of 1.49 million km2. Among them there were 303 national-level nature reserves, accounting for 11.9% of the total. They covered 91.2 million ha, accounting for 61.2% of the total area. 28 nature reserves joined the "Man and the Biosphere" network of UNESCO, and 20-odd nature reserves became World Natural Heritage Sites.

Seventh, the environmental problems in rural areas were increasingly prominent, with aggravated household pollution, worsening non-point pollution, sharpening industrial and mine pollution, and hidden risk for drinking water safety. The pollution tended to transfer from urban areas to rural areas.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)
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