Four regions in southern and central China — Guangdong, Guangxi, Henan and Yunnan — have been singled out by the national environmental protection agency for failing to live up to the dictates of President Xi Jinping's 'war against pollution'. The charges go beyond a simple lack of enforcement, with a related government report stating the provinces provided "superficial" and "fake" assessments for some of their current conservation efforts.
The admonishing review was issued October 22 by China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). Once known as the Ministry of Environmental Protection, MEE bears the enormous responsibility of regulating the quality of the country's air, soil and water. The ministry's recent publication reproaches the four regions for using only the most "perfunctory" efforts to diminish pollution and safeguard the environment in some situations.
In Yunnan, the accusations revolve mostly around its mining and livestock industries. Heavy metal pollution from unregulated mineral extraction projects is polluting the province's vulnerable watersheds and consequently harming public health, the assessment states.
Regarding livestock, the situation is much the same. China's soaring demand for pork and chicken has led to the rapid expansion of Yunnan's poultry and hog farms. Unchecked by regulators, many of these agricultural producers have not upgraded their waste management facilities and consequently end up dumping untreated waste into water sources, according to the MEE report.
In the dozen's of protected natural areas dotting Yunnan's mountainous topography, mining remains a more pressing concern, however. Many of the province's wilder alpine regions are heavily forested, unconnected by major roads or highways and therefore difficult to access. Yet illegal mining operations exist in these out-of-the-way places — some inside UNESCO-protected areas — with tailings and other debris often dumped directly into nearby rivers.
But the MEE report does more than single out small, unsanctioned mines. Concerning much larger but unnamed corporations — which generate the largest portion of GDP of any economic industry in the province — MEE investigators state:
Only 15 of the 173 [licensed] large-scale non-ferrous metal producers in the province were included on a list of firms in compliance with industry standards. Additionally, many smaller outfits were found to have illegally expanded and were discharging contaminants without permits.
In Guangdong, Guangxi and Henan, the most severe problems arose out of worsening air quality, the importation of banned waste from other countries and the failure to spend money granted by Beijing to conserve wilderness areas. The news was not all bad, however. Yunnan was lauded in the MEE findings for maintaining and expanding the highest percentage of "forest coverage" of any province in the country, as well as "improving the overall water quality" of its transboundary rivers.
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