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  • Opinion
    The second national census on pollution sources
    By Lan Xinzhen  ·  2020-06-22  ·   Source: NO.26 JUNE 25, 2020
    On June 10, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) released the results of the second national census on pollution sources. Compared with the first census in 2010, the results of this report are encouraging.

    Levels of sulfur dioxide, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and nitrogen oxide in the air and water dropped by 72 percent, 46 percent and 34 percent respectively compared with 10 years ago, demonstrating the success of China's environmental protection efforts in recent years. To boost the accuracy of results, new technologies like big data and hi-tech analysis tools were used for the surveys.

    The goal of building a well-off society in an all-round way is supposed to be reached in 2020. A well-off society is not only defined by its economy, but the quality of its ecological environment as well.

    The past decade has witnessed significant efforts by the Chinese Government toward environmental and ecological protection, espousing the idea that green mountains and clear water are equivalent to hills of silver and gold. Environmental protection has been made an important part of socialism with Chinese characteristics due to its impact on people's wellbeing and the nation's future.

    The government has committed vast resources to reducing energy consumption and raising energy efficiency in a bid to push forward green, sustainable and low-carbon development.

    The purpose of the census is not to vindicate China's environmental protection policies or its achievements in this area, but to lay a foundation for more effective and targeted policies in the future.

    Environmental and ecological protection is an important part of China's economic and social development, and identifying pollution sources is key to these aims.

    How many pollution sources are there in China? Which places are the most affected by pollution? What are the forms of water and air pollution? How can science be used to improve the situation? These questions are all related to people's quality of life and health.

    From the end of 2017 to the end of 2019, the MEE, the National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and several other departments worked collectively on the second national census on pollution sources, covering all sectors and regions across the country, including sources of industrial, agricultural and residential pollution. The most significant achievement of this project is a clearer understanding of the overall picture, including data on the composition and distribution of pollution sources.

    The census shows that there are more than 3.58 million pollution sources across China, 639,500 residential sources and 378,800 massive livestock and poultry farms. These make up the primary sources of pollution.

    Five provinces—Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei—account for 52.94 percent of the pollution sources. The distribution of these sources, particularly those in the industrial category, increases from west to east.

    The major water pollutants are COD, total nitrogen and ammonia nitrogen, which are largely discharged into the Yangtze, Pearl and Huaihe river basins. Nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide are the primary atmospheric pollutants.

    The survey also reveals that the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the surrounding areas, the Yangtze River Delta as well as the Fenhe-Weihe plain have the highest per-unit emission of atmospheric pollutants. Compared with the rest of the country, the western regions still lag behind in terms of infrastructure for environmental protection, the construction of which must be accelerated in the coming years.

    Analyses based on the data show that cutting emissions of COD, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds is key to improving air and water quality. Data from the second census will help in developing a national pollution source database, complementing existing archives of major pollution sources. This will provide scientific references and the basis for the government to work out more effective environmental protection policies to improve the ecology in the years to come.

    (Printed Edition Title: Less Means Better)

    Copyedited by Laurence Coulton

    Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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