Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The central government's agency called the State Environmental Protection Adminstration (SEPA) will do an assessment of five regions and five heavily polluting industries to try and curb the impact they're having on the environment.

Some 39 experts will study how much economic development has affected the areas of the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River; economic zones to the west of the Taiwan Straits; along the Beibu Gulf in South China; the Bohai Rim in North China; and Chengdu-Chongqing.

From the data gathered, these experts will help form eco-friendly national policies that could also assess government officials' work performance. That's because the central government wants to tie in environmental impact as part the evaluation of who gets a promotion or demotion.

While all this is well and good, the article doesn't provide any specifics on how the assessments will be made, who these 39 experts are, and how officials will be held responsible.

What's a bit more disappointing are the five regions that are chosen. There are hydro-electric projects along the Yellow River, but the one getting the most attention now is the Three Gorges Dam and how the river banks are considered unsafe and some four million people have to be relocated along the Yangtze.

I don't know much about the Beibu Gulf and along the Taiwan Straits, while preliminary oil exploration has been done in Bohai Rim, actual extraction hasn't started yet. The only heavy-hitting evaluation will be Chengdu-Chongqing, which are major cities near the Yangtze, using up a lot of the power generated from the Three Gorges Dam.

This plan is just a baby step in trying to determine a small fraction of what economic development has done to this country's environment. In one way it's a naive way to keep the numbers relatively low. Or in another it maybe too frightening for the government and its people to find out what they've really done.

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