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Greenpeace Warns of Ecological Disaster in Western China

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/04/22; April 22, 2001.]

BEIJING, April 22 (AFP) - A drive to develop western China could cause major damage the country's environment, already ravaged in the east and south by relentless modernisation, Greenpeace warned Sunday.

The international ecological organisation delivered its second report on the state of China's environment, which it dedicated to the pollution-choked Pearl River Delta, to coincide with international Earth Day.

"The development of the Western region should not be done at the expense of the environment, otherwise it would risk creating many more Pearl River Delta ecological disasters," Greenpeace China executive director Ho Wai Chi told reporters.

The Chinese government has been carrying out infrastructural projects in western China for more than 18 months, aimed at extending economic development areas which have until now largely been limited to the coastal areas in the east.

The project, which has become a centrepiece in the Communist government's economic transformation of China, has been based along the lines of the developments of the Pearl River Delta.

It could be dangerous for the environment, warned Ho, saying that Beijing should avoid a "Let's get rich first and clean up later" policy.

Since the start of China's economic boom 20 years ago, growth in the southern Guangdong province, situated around the Pearl River, has increased 40 times, but the environmental deterioration of the area has been even more pronounced, he said.

The region produces more than four billion tonnes of polluted water every year, of which only 10 percent is treated, he said.

It also emits 600,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide, which makes it one of the world's most acid rain-hit regions, Greenpeace said.

The organisation warns that western China is already suffering from desertification and drying up rivers.

Greenpeace also warned of the impact of other infrastructure projects such as the construction of a railway line to Lhasa in Tibet and the diversion of water from the Yangtse River to the Yellow River, which is often dry for long periods.

Greenpeace, one of a group of activists expelled from Beijing in 1995 after having erecting a banner in Tiananmen Square to protest against China's nuclear experiments, would like better relations with Beijing, Ho added.

Two members of the organisation had raised this with Chinese parliamentary officials last month, he said.

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