East Beijing: Construction workers demolish a house with smokestacks in the background emitting toxins into the air. China's unsustainable growth is costing the nation at least $230 billion a year, or 3.5% of its GDP. There is also the added cost of premature deaths and other illnessses linked to poor air quality, estimated at $100 billion a year.
Photo Credit: Sim Chi Yin; The New York Times
An article, by Edward Wong, in the New York Times says that the cost to the environment of China's unregulated economic growth has cost the nation "$230 billion in 2010, or 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product." This figure says much: it is three times the cost reported in 2004, as China's leaders still continue to encourage economic growth at the cost of the health of its cities and the people who inhabit them.
The rapidly eroding environment across the country has become an issue of paramount concern to many Chinese. In January, outrage boiled over as air pollution in north China reached record levels, well beyond what Western environmental agencies consider hazardous. The public fury forced propaganda officials to allow official Chinese news organizations to report more candidly on the pollution.
Chinese state-owned enterprises in the oil and power industries have consistently blocked efforts by pro-environment government officials to impose policies that would alleviate the pollution.
There have also been constant concerns over water and soil pollution. The discovery of at least 16,000 dead pigs in rivers that supply drinking water to Shanghai has ignited alarm there. This week, China Central Television reported that farmers in a village in Henan Province were using wastewater from a paper mill to grow wheat. But one farmer said they would not dare to eat the wheat themselves. It is sold outside the village, perhaps ending up in cities, while the farmers grow their own wheat with well water.
The Beijing government on Thursday released details of a three-year plan that is aimed at curbing various forms of pollution, according to a report on Friday in China Daily, an official English-language newspaper. The report quoted Wang Anshun, Beijing’s mayor, as saying that sewage treatment, garbage incineration and forestry development would cost at least $16 billion.This is a start, but it falls short of what China has to spend over the next few years. China has to invest far more in environmental controls and protection; this is a lesson that western-developed nations learned in the 1970s, as they grappled with rampant growth and increasing environmental problems. For one, healthcare costs will rise, says an article by Meena Thiruvengad in The Finacialist, as more of its citizens become sicker, due to air pollution:
The World Bank estimated that illnesses and premature deaths linked to China’s pollution cost it about $100 billion – the equivalent of 3 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product – in 2009 alone. A separate study by Greenpeace and Peking University estimates particulate pollution cost four major cities more than $1 billion and caused more than 8,000 premature deaths last year. “China’s economy has skyrocketed, but at a price. Power plants, factories and heavy industries are all belching out black, dirty air, at the cost of our health and our environment,” Greenpeace said.Economic growth is fine and laudable, and it is understandable why developing nations like China, India and Brazil want to increase their economic potential, but unsustained growth will eventually lead to the problems now very apparent in China, the world's second-largest economy.
You can read the rest of the article at [NYT]