Published: Saturday 31 January 1998

China has found its biggest threat yet. Pollution. With 178,000 annual deaths being attributed to urban pollution, the nation's leaders have become keenly sensitive to the issue and going by the rhetoric and new regulations, are indeed concerned about the problem. The blood-lead levels in Chinese children are 80 per cent more than what is considered safe for normal mental development and the level of pollutants in the atmosphere are at least two to five times higher than the World Health Organization guidelines. China discharges 14 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases and is the largest contributor to global warming, second only to the us .

The Chinese leadership faces an enormous task -- to follow China's global environmental commitments while pursuing their agenda for economic growth. In the last five years, the government has issued over 110 environmental rules and has signed up to 10 international environmental treaties, though officials admit that the nation often fails to meet its own standards.

The World Bank blames weak enforcement of the environmental laws for the nation's current state and suggests harnessing of market forces to work for environment, using taxation to punish pollution and higher levels of investment to clean and efficient technologies as solution.

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