Wikileaks Cable Shows Grim Truth of Air Pollution in China’s South
Guangzhou of Guangdong Province, China. The Pearl River Delta is one of the most
developed regions in China, which also led to heavy pollution of the environm
(China Photos/Getty Images)
Southern Chinese know the health hazards
of their environment—they just have to look up and see the brown haze obscuring
the Pearl River Delta, an urban hub of cities in Guangdong, China.
nothing makes Chinese air pollution more evident to the outside world than a
Wikileaks cable, prepared by diplomats in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou in
2006 and released Aug. 26, providing candid statements from Chinese communist
officials and foreign officials that prove the point.
China’s urban inhabitants live in cities with harmful air pollution or even very
dangerous pollution, says Wang Jinnan, the chief engineer at the Chinese Academy
on Environmental Planning, part of the State Environmental Protection Agency
(SEPA), according to the Wikileaks cable.
Air quality is getting worse,
especially in major cities, leading to more and more serious health problems, said the vice minister of SEPA, Zhang Lijun,
according to the cable.
Officials have also said that air pollution’s
financial cost is large and
Zhu Guangyao, deputy chief of the SEPA said that the damage to
China’s environment costs about ten percent
of China’s yearly GDP. Ten percent was about $200 billion in 2006, at the
time Zhu made the statement, but would be $500 billion in 2011.
15 percent of China’s GDP will be lost due to health costs and causalities from
air pollution, says a Harvard scholar, according to the cable.
report, a Yale scholar estimated more than
half of China’s yearly GDP growth would be wiped out due to air
The cable elaborated other facts that brought to light the
pervasiveness of pollution in the south.
For example, when scientists
finally started measuring the pollutants in south China, their findings alarmed
the world–but the pollutant with the most impact on public health was not even
measured. The levels of fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution are suspected to be
so high that they would create political difficulties if revealed.
Heavy industry and residential coal burning fuels 70
percent of China’s energy. Air pollution is also caused by inadequate pollution
controls, deforestation, and a sharp increase
in the number of motor vehicles.
According to the report, in the next 15
years, Chinese pollution discharges may increase four or five times if reforms
“Air pollution in south China is bad and getting worse,
mirroring conditions in many other regions in China,” the cable said.
is a sad irony that this region of China—seen as a beacon for poor migrants who
want to find fame and fortune—has actually become harmful to those migrants’ and