China's Environmental Plan

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji has announced a series of measures to deal with increasing environmental problems in the country. The plan includes ways to deal with air pollution, water shortages and other environmental issues.

The measures are part of a five-year economic development plan. Mr. Zhu presented the plan last week to China's parliament, the National People's Congress. Mr. Zhu said his plan would increase economic growth, improve social conditions and lead to a cleaner environment.

Mr. Zhu said water shortages in the northern area of the country are threatening to slow development and lead to social unrest. He said China must speed building projects designed to move water from the southern part of the country to the north.

Experts say northern China has suffered from serious water shortages during the past several years. More than twenty years of widespread industrial development has dried up lakes and polluted many of China's rivers and streams. Four-hundred of the country's more than six-hundred major cities suffer water shortages. About seven-hundred-million people drink polluted water. And riots have taken place in agricultural areas as farmers battle for water.

Mr. Zhu called for Chinese industries to re-use sixty-percent of the water they use by the year Two-Thousand-Five. Chinese officials also will discuss a project to redirect water from the Yangtze River in southern China hundreds of kilometers north to the Yellow River. The Yellow River often dries up before reaching the sea during the summer.

The water project is expected to begin next year at a cost of about seventeen-thousand-million dollars. But environmental groups say the project could cause the Yangtze river to dry up in thirty years. Critics say the project will not solve China's water problems but will only move them. Critics also say the redirected water will cost too much for many farmers. But Mr. Zhu says the government would establish a fair pricing system.

The five-year plan also sets a target date for reducing sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere in some cities. China has some of the world's most polluted cities. Mr. Zhu also demanded greater efforts to prevent the destruction of forests.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English