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Centro de Idiomas Extranjeros y Lenguas Nativas CIDEN

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Pollution in China
Pollution is one aspect of the broader topic of environmental issues in China. Various forms of
pollution have increased as China has industrialised, which has caused widespread
environmental and health problems
Soil contamination
The immense growth of the People's Republic of China since the 1980s has resulted in increased
soil pollution. The State Environmental Protection Administration believes it to be a threat to the
environment, food safety and sustainable agriculture. 38,610 square miles (100,000 km2) of
Chinas cultivated land have been polluted, with contaminated water being used to irrigate a
further 31.5 million miles (21,670 km2.) and another 2 million miles (1,300 km2) have been
covered or destroyed by solid waste. In total, the area accounts for one-tenth of Chinas
cultivatable land, and is not known as the first time mostly in economically developed areas. An
estimated 6 million tonnes of grain are contaminated by heavy metals every year, causing direct
losses of 29 billion yuan (US$2.57 billion)
As China's waste production increases, insufficient efforts to develop capable recycling systems
have been attributed to a lack of environmental awareness. In 2012 the waste generation in China
was 300 million tons (229.4 kg/cap/yr).
A ban came into effect on 1 June 2008 that prohibited all supermarkets, department stores and
shops throughout China from giving out free plastic bags. Stores must clearly mark the price of
plastic shopping bags and are banned from adding that price onto the price of products. The
production, sale and use of ultra-thin plastic bags - those less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 in)
thick - are also banned. The State Council called for "a return to cloth bags and shopping
baskets." This ban, however, does not affect the widespread use of paper shopping bags at
clothing stores or the use of plastic bags at restaurants for takeout food. A survey by the
International Food Packaging Association found that in the year after the ban was implemented,
10 percent fewer plastic bags found their way into the garbage.
Electronic waste
In 2011, China produced 2.3 million tons of electronic waste. The annual amount is expected to
increase as the Chinese economy grows. In addition to domestic waste production, large amounts
of electronic waste are imported from overseas. Legislation banning importation of electronic
waste and requiring proper disposal of domestic waste has recently been introduced, but has been
criticized as insufficient and susceptible to fraud. There have been local successes, such as in the
city of Tianjin where 38,000 tons of electronic waste were disposed of properly in 2010, but
much electronic waste is still improperly handled.
Industrial pollution
In 1997, the World Bank issued a report targeting China's policy towards industrial pollution.
The report stated that "hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and incidents of serious
respiratory illness [have been] caused by exposure to industrial air pollution. Seriously
contaminated by industrial discharges, many of China's waterways are largely unfit for direct
human use". However, the report did acknowledge that environmental regulations and industrial
reforms had had some effect. It was determined that continued environmental reforms were
likely to have a large effect on reducing industrial pollution.
In a 2007 article about China's pollution problem, the New York Times stated that
"Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international
repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but
also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party." The article's main points
1. According to the Chinese Ministry of Health, industrial pollution has made cancer
Chinas leading cause of death.
2. Every year, ambient air pollution alone killed hundreds of thousands of citizens.
3. 500 million people in China are without safe and clean drinking water.
4. Only 1% of the countrys 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the
European Union, because all of its major cities are constantly covered in a "toxic gray
shroud". Before and during the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing was "frantically
searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for
the 2008 Olympics."
5. Lead poisoning or other types of local pollution continue to kill many Chinese children.
6. A large section of the ocean is without marine life because of massive algal blooms
caused by the high nutrients in the water.
7. The pollution has spread internationally: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides fall as acid
rain on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo; and according to the Journal of Geophysical
Research, the pollution even reaches Los Angeles in the USA.
8. The Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning in 2003 produced an unpublished
internal report which estimated that 300,000 people die each year from ambient air
pollution, mostly of heart disease and lung cancer.
9. Chinese environmental experts in 2005 issued another report, estimating that annual
premature deaths attributable to outdoor air pollution were likely to reach 380,000 in
2010 and 550,000 in 2020.
A 2007 World Bank report conducted with China's national environmental agency found that
"...outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year. Indoor
pollution contributed to the deaths of an additional 300,000 people, while 60,000 died
from diarrhoea, bladder and stomach cancer and other diseases that can be caused by water-
borne pollution." World Bank officials said "Chinas environmental agency insisted that the
health statistics be removed from the published version of the report, citing the possible impact
on 'social stability'".
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Pramo, P. (2017). The City as an Environment for Urban Experiences and the Learning of Cultural
Practices. In Handbook of Environmental Psychology and Quality of Life Research (pp. 275-290).
Springer International Publishing.