More green projects funded as dire warnings sounded

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2007, 12:00am

A senior environmental official yesterday welcomed a European Union-funded biodiversity initiative amid grave warnings that the country's environment is continuing to deteriorate.

The United Nations Development Programme signed five grant agreements worth US$13 million with the EU and the central government, which are designed to give environmental concerns a higher profile in mainland development planning.

'China is faced with a severe situation in biodiversity conservation,' State Environmental Protection Administration deputy director Wu Xiaoqing said at yesterday's signing ceremony, which marked International Biodiversity Day.

'Growing population and rapid economic development have posed grave threats to the country's biodiversity.'

He said protecting biodiversity should be integrated into the government's development plans and should also be considered in the assessment of local officials' political performance.

'We must forbid those projects that cause pollution or damage to the environment and regard biodiversity conservation as an integral part of the environmental assessment of other projects,' Mr Wu said.

The agreements were part of a US$70 million joint initiative launched by the UNDP, EU and China a year ago aimed at preserving biodiversity in the country's western and central regions, with 14 more grant agreements to be signed later this year.

The first agreements signed included an assessment of environmental impacts of mining and tourism development plans in Sichuan and a plan to integrate biodiversity conservation into local development in resource-rich northwest Yunnan .

Mr Wu's remarks coincided with a warning by Pan Yue , another deputy director of Sepa, that the country's environmental degradation has worsened despite the government's efforts to crack down on industrial pollution.

'Pollution worsened in many parts of the country in the first quarter of the year according to the results of nationwide monitoring,' Mr Pan was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

'The improved air quality in some cities is absolutely no reason for complacency because foul air emissions are beyond acceptable limits in other cities.'

Water quality in the Huai, Hai and Songhua rivers had 'worsened a great deal', Mr Pan said, and the quality of drinking water in major cities had deteriorated between January and March.

Sepa said the Yangtze and Yellow rivers were only 'mildly polluted', contrasting with a report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences last month that biodiversity in the Yangtze has been seriously damaged.

Down the drain

The percentage of water in the Yellow, Huai and Hai rivers considered too polluted for human use: 70%