News / Asia

Environmental Activism Takes Hold in China

Environmental Activism Takes Hold in China
Environmental Activism Takes Hold in China
William Ide
China's authoritarian leaders show few signs this year that they are ready for political activism.  But there are indications they are increasingly aware and willing to listen to public demands when it comes to the environment.

As protests gain in frequency and boldness in China, the country is experiencing its own “Not in my Backyard” revolution.  Protests such as this one that occurred last December in the southern city of Haimen are not uncommon.

Haimen residents took to the streets to protest the construction of a coal-fired power plant and, after an intense stand off, the project was suspended.

Protests about a paper mill wastewater pipeline in Qidong, and rallies on Hainan island, in Shifang and in Ningbo this year have all followed similar scripts. As public dissatisfaction grew and spilled out onto the streets, officials eventually caved in.

Kevin Tu, a China energy and climate analyst, says the government is becoming more transparent as public demands grow.

“The Chinese government including both the central government and the local officials are very concerned about social stability. When the concern is about the environment that's not related to any sensitive political issue, they will be pressurized to respond,” Tu said.

A little more than a decade ago, there was very little concern in China about water quality, food safety and pollution. But that has changed.

Alvin Lin is with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing.

“Definitely you are seeing a growing consciousness about what is the environmental impact and what is the health impact of such development and how we can sort of balance development with these concerns,” Lin said.

And, it’s not always boisterous rallies that attract government attention.

Earlier this year, demands from residents in Beijing for clearer reports on the capital’s frequently smog-choked air started to grow.

When that debate intensified last winter, He Xiaoxia’s Green Beagle Institute, an environmental group in Beijing was one of several organizations that got involved.

“We had some people who started a movement called ‘My Test of the Motherland’s Air Quality’ that allowed citizens to use a simple machine to measure air quality and publish their results in a diary online. That way they could share their results and feelings with others and call on the government to take action,” Xioxia said.

Now, following widespread concern and complaints about air quality across China, local officials have begun releasing air particulate figures in many of the country's major provincial capitals and cities.

China's new leadership has also announced a new regulation that major projects must undergo social risk assessments before construction begins.

Analysts say what is crucial, though, is not just carrying out the assessments, but what officials do in response -- especially when local residents reject projects that could be a rich source of revenue for local governments.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Enviro Equipment, Inc. from: North Carolina
December 21, 2012 2:44 PM
Concern for the environment is definitely becoming an issue in China as we've seen the number of inquiries we receive from China-based companies jump from a half-dozen every year to a half-dozen every month. Granted, this isn't exactly a scientific polling method but seeing as how we sell equipment used for testing of air, water and soil, this sudden increase has got to mean some kind of environmental awareness is happening in mainland China


by: Wangchuk from: NYC
December 21, 2012 9:54 AM
The Chinese Central Govt has many environmental regulations but rarely enforces them. Consequently, the local govts tend to ignore the law and pollute the environment. They do so for 2 reasons: 1) there is little enforcement, and 2) the local govt is hard-pressed by the Party to increase GDP every year and if they fail, local officials are punished. There is little incentive for local officals to comply w/ strict environmental regulations. Pollution in China increases every year b/c the Party cares more about GDP growth at any cost than they do the environment.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid