Rural Areas Suffer From Heavily-Polluted Environment: Report
Only a 10th of rural areas have taken measures to address pollution while around 600,000 administrative villages and 40,000 towns have no basic facilities for environmental protection, reported the People's Daily on the growing pollution problem in China's countryside.
The lack of such facilities has left sewage and garbage untended outdoors, added the paper.
China's vast countryside is facing an increasingly grim environmental crisis as industries shift from urban to rural areas, where the discharge of certain pollutants is now greater than that in cities, the People's Daily reported.
"As urbanization and agricultural modernization continue, pollution in China's countryside has worsened even further." Yang Fuqiang, senior advisor on climate and energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Global Times.
According to the People's Daily, rural China's toxic turn is largely a consequence of two trends: the expansion of polluting industries in rural areas and the connivance of local officials to boost economic growth. In some cases, urban leaders have set strict limits on polluting factories, forcing them to move to poorer rural areas. In other cases, local governments have sacrificed the environment to pursue a higher GDP and political achievements.
The cumulative impact of decades of building up rural industries is now taking an environmental toll. Government data shows that much of pollution prevention investment goes to industrial cities, while more than 60 million tons of sewage is discharged into rivers in the countryside. On top of that, around 300 million tons of garbage piles up outdoors every year, since there are virtually no facilities meant to keep rural areas free from pollution.
At a press conference at the annual sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC in March, Chen Jining, the country's new environmental protection minister, said that the central government set aside 25 billion yuan ($ 4 billion) to deal with rural pollution in 2014.
"That's not enough," Yang told the Global Times. "The government should set a standard for running factories in the countryside and build more facilities for treating waste and rubbish, " he added.
Yang admitted that rural areas in China have a long way to go to become ecologically-friendly.
The People's Daily report has triggered lively discussions on Chinese social media. "Pollution in rural areas could lead to food safety problems, and requires prompt solution," one netizen wrote.