China: Reducing pollution and fighting eutrophication

China is the world’s biggest polluter but they set a lower growth target for the period from 2011 through 2015 as compared with the previous five-year period to help reduce pollution.

The Chinese economic success story is paired with serious environmental degradation, especially the pollution of China’s streams, rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. China suffers from growing shortages of fresh water resources and can ill-afford to have its lakes and rivers rendered unavailable for use because they are too polluted. Water pollution takes an economic toll as well; the World Bank has estimated that the overall cost of water scarcity caused by water pollution amounts to about one percent of Gross Domestic Product.

Algae blooms, such as the ones that occurred in Tai Lake in 2007 and Jiaozhou Bay in Qingdao in 2008, have many harmful effects. The most serious one is that when the masses of algae die, their subsequent decay consumes large quantities of oxygen, causing oxygen levels to fall to levels that are harmful to fish and other organisms. This nutrient enrichment can also promote the growth of algae species such as Cyanobacteria that are toxic to other organisms, sometimes including humans.

The authorities are going to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ammonia nitrogen, and cut chemical oxygen demand by 1.5 percent this year compared with the previous year, as part of a new environment protection policy.

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