Billions lost as acid rain ruins farms and forests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 March, 1998, 12:00am

Acid rain has caused billions of dollars in damage to farms and forests, officials say.

A federal agency yesterday disclosed that economic losses caused by toxic rainfall were five times greater than originally feared with some precipitation nearly as acidic as vinegar.

'China has declared war on acid rain,' the National Environmental Protection Agency said.

Acid rain cost the mainland more than 110 billion yuan (HK$102.85 billion) a year - the equivalent of 10 per cent of the national budget, the agency said.

Damage figures did not include calculations on the impact of acid rain on buildings or heritage sites, although the Government has warned pollution poses a threat to such cultural relics as Datong's Yungang Buddhist Grottoes.

Emissions of tonnes of sulphur dioxide from coal-fired factories and power plants are blamed for acid rain, which affects 40 per cent of the mainland.

The aim is to curb the deteriorating trend of acid rain and sulphur dioxide pollution by 2000, the agency said in the China Business Weekly.

State researchers estimate rainfall in such heavily polluted provinces as Hunan and Jiangxi is 90 per cent acidic, with levels nearly as high as those found in acetic acid - a key ingredient in vinegar.

Authorities said last month an enforcement campaign would be launched to curb emissions causing acid rain, including restrictions on the burning of high-sulphur coal.