Pollution in China much worse than thought

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A new report from the Chinese government outlines that water pollution, mainly from agricultural fertilizers, is much worse than previously thought. The report outlines the 30 million tons of effluent sent into the waterways and how it is a major obstacle to future growth. The New York Times has a good rundown of the report here.

In 2005, I lived in Beijing and worked for a steel equipment manufacturer. I travelled to many industrial towns and saw the tremendous pollution caused by China’s growth. What I saw in China made me reconsider my career as a metallurgical engineer and turn my focus to environmental consulting.

In 2009, I returned to Beijing and China, though only there for three weeks, the difference was quite remarkable. Beijing is not the best example as it was largely cleaned up for the Olympics, between 2005 and 2009, they built 5 metro lines, removed millions of cars from the streets and now bicycle paths are starting to reemerge. A steel factory I worked at, which was accessible by metro was completely disassembled and transferred to another city 300 km away. They have made progress.

However the shear size of China makes the clean-up task daunting. Canada, 34 million inhabitants, is smaller than Beijing. China has 30 Canadas in it and less space. China has a great mountain to climb and the damage done to their rivers and soil may take many generations to repair. There are no easy answers, but it is good to see China more openly acknowledge the damage done and the task ahead to repair it.