Let a thousand wheels rone

The latest environment-friendly moves by China indicate investments in the environment-unfriendly car industry

Published: Friday 15 December 1995

Qua vadis: is China on a long< (Credit: Anil Agarwal / cse)The Chinise government announces an Investment of about us $17 billion in More than a thousand environmental Nis, during the next five years, so critics doubt the credibility of propeas. Xie Zhenhua, head, Real Environmental Protection 97 (%WA), announced this substan- Ipprease in environmental invest- i is November, in Beijing. a a currently discussing its Quo vadis., is China on a it Fnr Year plan (1996- 2000) winch will be formally adopted by the National People's Congress at the beginning of am year.

Despite this increase, China Is only spending 0.8 per cent of Its GNP environment. It is still shaping as environmental legislotion. According to Zhenhua, it could talk another five years to do so. The execution of the existing regulations is another big problem, as the NEPA has very few other options than persuasion to carry out her policies in China's provinces and cities.

It will now be a bigger problem to ensure that the assigned sum is spent on environmental projects and not on ringroads and airports. In big cities ringroads might solve air pollution caused by traffic jams. So, in the shortterm, there might be a reqson to call it an environmental project only leading to an increase in the use of cars.

Environmental problems have been spreading from the former industrial strongholds in the cities, to the 20 million township enterprises in the coun- tryside. These enterprises alone produced 4.3 billion tonnes of waste water last year.

The newly announced environmental programme will focus on regions which have the severest problems and the industries with the biggest problems. Zhenhua criticised the "wasteful economic growth" and the less than strict application of environmental regulations while speaking at an International Business Leaders Symposium in Beijing. He announced punishment for criminal behaviour leading to serious environmental pollution and destruction".

Zhenhua feared that fast expanding environmental pollution would damage the economic and social developments of some regions. He especially blamed the power industry which, because of its low efficiency, used relatively much more coal to produce the same amount of energy.

Despite the good intentions displayed by NEPA, the government is beeping mixed signals. Although the stacontrolled media has highlighted great emphasis on stiff environmental measures, the media would be no less enthusiastic if China starts new environmentunfriendly economic projects.

Only in October, the newspapers had announced a series of new agreements regarding the car industry. Some of the headlines read as follows: us $1 billion General Moto rs join t ven ture in Shanghai to set up sedan vehicle production; Ford is seeking cooperation with a Jiangxi automaker, Mercedes unveils an E-Class model for the Chinese market, Daimler-Benz set for China Car Deal, and the like.Evidently, the car industry enjoys a lot of support in China.

Zhenhua pointed out that although the Chinese government claimed to have encouraged the use of high-grade lead-free petrol, the newjoint venture of General Motors in Shanghai will produce leaded petrol engines.

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