China's stupendous financial growth rate has exacted a stiff toll of its environment and other nations are worried that the disaster may spill over
CHINA's explosive economic growth rate has wreaked havoc on its environment. The signs are everywhere: from the algae-clotted Chao Lake in Tangxi, Hefei's putrid tap water, to the acid rain-ravaged Great Wall and smog-covered Benxi in Manchuria.
Vaclav Smil, a professor at the University of Manitoba in Canada, believes that if China's economy grows even at a rate of only 2 per cent a year -- as against a whopping 13.4 per cent last year -- arable land lost to development by AD 2000 will equal all the cultivated land in Vietnam; China's particulate emissions will leap by an amount equal to what the us spewed out in 1990; and sulphur dioxide output will rise by an amount equal to that of Germany's. Japan, in fact, has apprehensions that sulphurous rainclouds drifting in from China will hamper its own pollution-control efforts.
Although Beijing has publicised its intentions to clean up the mess, it clearly lacks the technological and financial muscle to go it alone. The vacuum has, therefore, been filled to a large extent by foreign capital and environmental companies.
The World Bank channels as much as $500 million annually into environmental programmes in China, reports The Asian Wall Street Journal. Japan, Europe, Canada and Australia are offering substantially more in loans, technical assistance and equipment. And the European Community is funding a study of China's environmental problems, as is the Asian Development Bank, which may be asked to chip in with a $100 million loan next year.
The US corporate sector too wants a part of the action. "There could be big opportunities," says Thomas G Smith, head of the Asian operations of the us-based waste disposal firm, WMX Technologies Inc, which is in the process of gathering data on China's environmental problems.
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