Facing up to the country's ever-deterio-rating environmental conditions is the first step in dealing with them.
In its plan to control environmental risks during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), the Ministry of Environmental Protection admits that some places face drinking water risks and cancer rates are increasing in some villages.
It is to be applauded that the country's top environmental watchdog has acknowledged the harsh reality and is willing to tell the public that environmental risks are threatening our existence.
In less than 10 years, the quality of groundwater had deteriorated rapidly. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Land and Resources from 2000 to 2002 found that 40 percent of the country's groundwater was below the third standard level. By 2009, the quality of 73.8 percent of groundwater was only at fourth and fifth standard levels.
If this trend continues, Chinese people will have no clean water to drink in the near future.
With reports of some chemical plants and paper mills directly discharging polluted water underground or into limestone caves, despite claims by some environmental protection experts that the chances are slim that industrial plants will be able to drill wells of more than 1,000 meters to discharge toxic wastewater underground, it is obviously sensible for environmental watchdogs to maintain heightened vigilance against such possibilities.
But it is not just the polluters that are to blame for the rapid deterioration in the quality of groundwater. The environmental watchdogs' inaction and poor performance have also contributed to the situation.
We have a water pollution control law, but it does not protect our groundwater because it is not effectively enforced.
This is because few local governments attach enough importance to the issue.
The investment in environmental protection is only around 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product, much lower than it needs to be.
Clearly, there is no time for foot-dragging if we are to safeguard the quality of our water and air. Local government leaders must be made to realize that the pursuit of unsustainable economic growth without enough thought being given to environmental protection will only further contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe.
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