- For more than three decades China has achieved remarkable success in economic development, but its rapid growth has resulted in considerable damage to the natural environment. In 1998, the World Health Organization reported that seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world were in China. Sulfur dioxide and soot produced by coal combustion fall as acid rain on approximately 30 percent of China’s land area. Industrial boilers and furnaces consume almost half of China’s coal and are the largest sources of urban air pollution. In many cities, the burning of coal for cooking and heating accounts for the rest.
At the same time, since the beginning of economic reform in the late 1970s, the government has paid considerable attention to environmental problems, particularly in terms of regulatory responsibility and enforcement at the local government level. China passed the Environmental Protection Law for trial implementation in 1979, and in 1982 the constitution included important environmental protection provisions. Since then, various laws and policies have been put in place to address China’s current and future urban environment. The 2010 World Exposition in Shanghai provided evidence that the Chinese government views its environmental problems as a priority. The green construction of the facilities for the Expo and particularly of the Chinese Pavilion reflected the emphasis the government has placed on protecting and improving the environment through new technologies. In addition, China’s “eco cities” have also been recognized worldwide for advances in urban sustainability, such as Tianjin, Shenzhen, and Wuxi. – Jacqueline Nivard