China must act against pollution

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2013, 5:19am

China is a rapidly developing country and has caught up with the world's other large nations.

Its factories have contributed to its success. Thanks to low costs, a plentiful supply of labour and sufficient room on which to build, many companies have established plants on the mainland. The manufacturing sector brings wealth and this enhances China's status on the world stage.

However, there is a downside, as this sector is causing serious pollution problems. Some plants discharge waste water and smoke from chimneys which contain toxic chemicals high in heavy metals, such as lead, chromium and cadmium. They permeate the soil, and plants either cannot grow or are contaminated. Hard-working farmers then find that their efforts are all in vain as they cannot sell their produce. If the pollution is really bad, they may be banned from continuing to farm on their land.

This pollution also affects the health of people living near the factories. Many become ill because of toxic gases or polluted water and contract various diseases including cancer.

Some citizens have accused the central government of failing to improve this serious state of affairs. Some farmers may receive compensation, but it is generally a small sum and does not cover the cost of what they have lost. However, the fact that they are given something shows that Beijing is trying to deal with the problem.

Obviously, the government must do more. I do not believe it should shut down the factories that are causing this pollution. This is not an ideal strategy for a developing country as it would lead to economic losses. This problem has developed over a period of time and it cannot be solved overnight. It takes time to work out an effective strategy to curb the worst polluters and make them clean up their act.

Officials must ensure closer monitoring of plants. There are already laws in place, but some enterprises choose to ignore them. The government must ensure this does not continue and that firms ignoring regulations are forced to pay heavy penalties. They cut corners to make more money, so if they are fined and it affects their profits, this may deter them from breaking the law again.

Also, some plants find the cost of cleaning up their operations and preventing waste water going into rivers, for example, is very high. Therefore, the government should be willing to provide subsidies so these factories can get the equipment they need to clean up their act.

With the right policies in place, I think we will eventually see improvements.

Cress Tam, Tsuen Wan