BEIJING (AP) — China can curb pollution without sacrificing economic growth, an EU commissioner said during a two-day trip to Beijing to meet with officials and environmental activists.
EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik also said that China’s serious pollution problems are a business opportunity for European businesses, which have “in the last decades evolved quite far the technological solutions to some of the technology, be it in the water or cleaning up or in the air.”
Potocnik said in an interview Thursday he had come to China with the message that you can integrate pro-environmental policies into industrial policy and wanted to “attack the mantra which was sometimes repeated that environmental preservation is stopping economic development.”
The past three decades have seen breakneck economic growth in China but little official concern about the effect on the country’s air, water and soil. Now the government is under pressure from the public to clean up the country’s smog-choked cities and filthy rivers, but it has given no timetable and has yet to make clear how far they are willing to go if such measures wipe out jobs or force factories and power plants to close.
“You can deal with air pollution and at the same time still have growth,” Potocnik said, adding that the European Union’s strict legislation to combat air pollution had achieved results while the bloc continued to grow.
Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of existing standards have worsened the pollution problem.
In one case that came to a conclusion this week, toxic cadmium spilled into a river in southern China for months, threatening drinking water supplies for millions of people. As in similar cases, it was detected only after residents reported finding dead fish in there.
On Tuesday, courts in Guangxi region sentenced 13 people to prison over the spill into the Longjiang River. The 13 included three environmental inspectors who failed to perform their duties and allowed plants to dodge pollution inspections and discharge industrial effluents containing cadmium from April 2011, according to a report from the official Xinhua News Agency that was confirmed by two of the three courts Thursday.
Zeng Juefa, who was the vice director of Hechi city’s environmental protection bureau, was given a four-and-a-half-year sentence for delinquency and taking bribes of 45,000 yuan ($7,300), the report said.