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Development

Western China Loses 18 billion Dollars a Year to Environmental Degradation

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/06/06; June 6, 2005.]

BEIJING, June 6, 2005, (AFP)- The 10 western provinces of China suffer an annual economic loss of up to 150 billion yuan (18 billion US dollars) because of environmental deterioration, state media said.

The amount lost accounted for 13 percent of the local yearly gross domestic product, the Xinhua news agency reported, quoting a government research report.

Although the region is the focus of China's high-profile Western Development plan, it faces growing ecological pressure caused by soil erosion, desertification and grassland degeneration, said the report.

Currently, the acreage suffering soil erosion has reached 2.8 million square kilometers (1.1 million square miles) in western China, 77 percent of the national total, according to the research, carried out by Xian Chunlin, a scholar at Ningxia University.

The provinces of Qinghai and Inner Mongolia, both boasting China's major pastures, have seen serious degeneration of grassland, with the affected area reaching 4.4 million hectares (10.8 million acres) and 9.73 million hectares respectively, said the report.

More than 10 million people in the western region have long been short of drinking water because of ecological deterioration.

The Chinese government is beginning to recognize the damage brought about by unchecked economic growth in the past two decades, characterized by high energy and material consumption, as well as high pollution.

The government has been trying to promote sustainable development.

Western China covers the ten provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions of Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Guizhou and Tibet.

It is home to 285 million people or 23 percent of China's population.


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