The Chinese are less environmentally conscious than most of the world, according to the findings of a comprehensive global opinion survey to be unveiled next month. Preliminary results of the inaugural International Environment Monitor survey show that only 47.5 per cent of the respondents from nine key cities in China would sacrifice economic progress to protect the environment. The Chinese figure compares unfavourably with the 58 per cent average for the 25 nations covered in the project. The countries surveyed made up almost 60 per cent of the global population. About 25,000 people were interviewed between January and March under the project, spearheaded by the Brussels-based International Research Institutes and the Market and Opinion Research International in London. Full details are scheduled to be released on June 23. Respondents were given 20 questions. They were asked whether they supported the statement that 'environmental protection should be given priority, even though there may be a risk of a slowdown in economic growth'. The New Zealanders scored a 77 per cent affirmative reply. They are followed by the Canadians and Swiss, at 73 per cent. The tallies for Australia and Holland both stand at 72 per cent, while Germany and Finland hit 71 and 70 per cent respectively. The world's two biggest economies failed to make the 70 per cent threshold. The United States managed 69 per cent and Japan 60 per cent. Those who have rendered a higher percentage are exclusively from the league of developed nations. At the lower end are Hungary at 39 per cent, Poland 32 and Nigeria 27. Ukraine is at the bottom of the list. Only a meagre 23 per cent of respondents in the former Soviet Union state would rather choose the well-being of the environment over the economy. Among Chinese respondents, those from Wuhan in Hubei province have greater regard for the environment. Fifty-seven per cent of inhabitants accorded higher priority to environmental protection over economic development. But the score was still one percentage point behind the world average. Wuhan, the fifth-largest city in China, has a population of about 3.5 million. It is a network of three cities: Hankou, Hanyang, and Wuchang. At the juncture of the Han and Yangtze rivers, Wuhan is a leading port and a major rail and highway junction. Iron and steel dominates Wuhan's economy. The other Chinese cities covered were Beijing, Shenyang, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. Hong Kong was not represented. In China, 31.9 per cent accepted that 'environmental protection and economic growth should be accorded the same priority'. The remaining 15.6 per cent was convinced 'economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers a certain degree of damage'. Residents of Hangzhou were the least concerned about the environment in China. It is the only Chinese city in which those who wanted the economy to take precedence outnumbered those who valued the environment. While 20.5 per cent of respondents deemed the quality of their surroundings more important, 23 per cent thought economic prosperity should be achieved at the expense of mother Earth. Although most of the developing nations have put money before their milieu, they are aware of the negative environmental effects on their health. China, in particular, registered the highest level of consciousness about the causal relation between the two notions. About 65.5 per cent of those polled believe environmental problems have a 'big impact' on human health. Respondents from the northeastern heavy industrial base are more concerned about environment-related health issues than the rest of the nation. Seventy-eight per cent of residents in Shenyang considered environmental problems a major health hazard. At the other extreme, only 32 per cent of Hangzhou citizens realised the influence the environment had on their physical well-being. In comparison, Hungary registered 64 per cent in affirmative replies to the question, followed by India at 58, Peru 57, Chile 56, Nigeria 54 and Ukraine 51. Obviously, Third World nations are eager to trade their natural environment for short-term economic benefits, even though they are well aware of the long-term side-effects. In the case of China, the people's choice has manifested primarily in the form of rapid industrialisation of the rural areas. Estimates indicate arable land has dwindled from 2.75 million hectares in 1980 to 2.32 million hectares in 1994. In 1986, the State Land Administration Bureau was established and the Land Use Law promulgated in a bid to regulate the change of land use and protect arable land. The measures, however, do not seem to have been effective. The global environment monitor survey has served as a benchmark for studies in the years to come. One of the lessons China can draw from these results is that it still has a long way to go in educating the masses about enhancing the environment for sustainable development in the long run.