China’s Economic Growth & Environmental Issues

China's Economic growth comes at an expense, the environment. The original yellow color of the Yangtze River just recently turned into red.  A recent Slashdot article got my attention, and made me wonder a couple of things.

"The Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world traditionally known as the 'golden watercourse,' mysteriously blushed for the first time on Sept. 6. Residents in the surrounding area near the city of Chongqing, where the Yangtze connects to the Jialin River, literally stopped in their tracks when they noticed their once golden river had turned a shocking shade of red. Residents have carefully crept down to the riverbanks for the past few days to save some of the red, tomato juice-like river water in bottles. Early predictions from scientists say the red water was likely a result of pollution, but investigators are still investigating the unknown cause."

When discussing the issue with one of my colleagues, who is from China, it's most probably the pollution, as there are a lot of factories and industry along the Yangze River. The air in Beijing is getting worse with the economic expansion, as the majority of the energy is derived from coal. Beijing is directly located next to a province where the majority of China's coal is being dug out of the ground.

This made me wonder; How much of China's economic growth would disappear if the factories would be subject of the same strict environmental rules and regulations as factories in the West? In particular comparing with the rules and regulations in Europe! The US is not as environmentally friendly as the EU, but still pays more attention to the impact producing industry can have on the environment. The US government didn't even signed the Kyoto treatment, which is still a painful testament the US is only environmental when it is in their favor. The commercials around tar-sands and coal , to become energy independent are not taking the environmental implication into account!

What will the impact of the pollution in the Yangze river be on the living standard of the Chinese people living along the river banks. What is the impact on the fish being caught in the river. This could very well have a large long term effect on China, just for some short term economic gains.

From the original article:

Even though the water doesn't look too safe, the new beet-red color of the river didn't stop people from going about their business. According to the Daily Mail, workers who rely on the Yangtze as their main source of income, including fishermen, continued about their daily work as if nothing were unusual.

The Yangtze River flows through a wide array of ecosystems and is itself habitat to several endemic and endangered species including the Chinese alligator and the Yangtze sturgeon. For thousands of years, people have used the river for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking and war.

Only time will tell what the long term effects of this pollution will be, not only to China, but to the world, as the river flows into the sea! And then it's already too late...

Makes me sad...I would like to leave a world for my kids to enjoy, which is why I consider to buy less plastic cheap crap toys made in China, more local toys made out of wood and durable, environmentally friendly produced components.

What are your thoughts on this?


Article, cross posted from G+: here